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February 21, 2004

Band of Brothers

Amid the unremitting spitball fire of accusations over the President's National Guard service, a sarcastic press snarkily showcased a John Kerry surrounded by veterans and asked, "Why haven't any of the President's Band of Brothers come to his defense?".

Of course, several have done just that; but inexplicably, their firsthand accounts appear only in small papers or conservative forums. Larger papers like the WaPo, LA Times, and NY Times seem to have staged a media whiteout... leading one to wonder why what now appears to be a rhetorical question was posed in the first place?

The answer, of course, is that the question was the media equivalent of firing for effect: the answer to be inferred was that since the President had obviously shirked his duty, there was no band of brothers to come to his defense.

Facts are such inconvenient things. Consider the charge that then-Lt. Bush pulled strings to get into the Guard to avoid serving in Vietnam. A fellow pilot, and Bush's roommate, retired Major Dean A. Roome, recalls in a WorldNetDaily interview:

"He was one of my favorite people to ride formation with, because he was smooth. He was a very competent pilot," Roome said. "You sort of bet your life on each other in some of those formation missions, and to me it was always a pleasure to fly with George. He was good."

Bush logged more than 625 hours in the cockpit and ranked in the top 10 percent of his squadron, according to his performance evaluations.

They're saying we're all a bunch of privileged draft dodgers, and that we got in there to get out of Vietnam," Roome said. "But that's not the case. In our unit, we had an average of two people overseas in the Vietnam theater continuously from 1968 to 1970." He says he and other Guard pilots did combat support missions as part of a program codenamed "Palace Alert Southeast Asia." "If you look closely at the shoulder patches on the uniforms of some of the pilots photographed with George, you can see the Vietnam service patches," said Roome, who served at Ellington from 1967 to 1987.
He recalls Bush and another lieutenant volunteering for the program. "When I left for it, I told him he ought to look into it, and George was interested in it, because he and (ret. Lt. Col. Fred) Bradley went and saw the colonel and inquired about it," Roome said. But they were too late. The program was winding down and not accepting any more volunteers, and Bush didn't have enough flight time to qualify anyway. By July 1970, the overseas F-102 program had been canceled altogether, Roome says.
Roome's recollection is corroborated by Lt. Colonel William Campenelli, who also served with then-Lt. Bush in Texas:
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.

As to the rumors that Lt. Bush shirked his duty, the WorldNetDaily interview cited earlier quotes several of his fellow officers:

"Lieutenant Bush is an outstanding young pilot and officer and is a credit to his unit," Lt. Col. Bobby Hodges wrote on May 27, 1971. "This officer is rated in the upper 10 percent of his contemporaries." Another, written by Maj. William Harris on May 26, 1972, was just as glowing: "Lieutenant Bush is an exceptional fighter interceptor pilot and officer."
Former Staff Sergeant Dan Liles, who served with Bush in the Texas ANG, also
...wonders why previous Bush campaigns didn't trumpet his exemplary flying record. "I was surprised when he ran for president that his flying record didn't come out," he said, "because it was pretty good." Liles, who also doubts "any rules were bent" for Bush, says the young Ivy League officer never acted like he was better than anyone else in the squadron. "He was one of the few officers out there who would let you walk along beside him. Most officers, you'd have to walk five feet behind them out on the flight line," Liles said. "But Bush wasn't like that. He was probably the nicest guy out there."

And on the puzzling records from Bush's last few months in Alabama, the Mudville Gazette has come to the rescue of the media's inexplicable inability to find a Reservist to interpret this latter-day Rosetta Stone. :

I looked at Bush's drill history, which has been floating around on the Internet for a couple of years, and I fail to see what the fuss is about. he earned 4 points in October 72 and 8 points in November of 72, which carried him through December, since you should average 4 points per month or 48 per year. (That's 4 points per month times 12 months.)
Bush then earned 6 points twice in January 73, which equals 12, which is equivalent to 3 months, which carried him through March, so lo and behold, he drilled again in April, earning 4 points. Then in May, he drilled 4 times, earning 3, 3, 4, and 3 points respectively, or 13 points total. That carried him through July 73. Bush got good years for both 1972 and 1973, and left the service with an honorable discharge. That means he did what he was supposed to. So what I see is an entirely normal drilling record for a reservist who, like so many of us, is holding down two or three careers at a time (counting the military as one of them).
So what is all the fuss about? Darned if I know. Remember, this was a time when new Army officers who had made life-changing decisions to join the Army after college were being discharged right out after finishing up their basic schools and being commissioned as 2/LT's because the Army had too many officers. Vietnam was winding way down--I had my orders to Saigon cancelled 2 months after receiving them (that was in December 1971), but I ended up in Thailand in September 72, working at a Marine Air Base called Nam Phong, aka The Rose Garden, as in we didn't promise you one, but we're sending you there. At that time, there were NO, repeat NO, ground troops permanently stationed in Vietnam, but Marine air, Navy air, and the Air Force were actively supporting the Vietnamese ground campaigns. And the Army must have provided aviation support to the Vietnamese, but they weren't being coordinated by the 7th/9th Air Force. The point being that LT's were a dime a dozen, with more reservists AND active duty types wanting to fly that there were flying billets available for them. If LT Bush, who had already been flying as part of the national air defense mission for 3 years, wanted to step down, that was no big deal because there were hundreds who wanted to take his place.
Again, I found nothing, absolutely nothing, in Bush's records that looked out of the ordinary.
Nor was the Gazette the only place able to find Reservists able to interpret the arcane hieroglyphics on the President's service records. You can also find very good explanations here and here. Which only makes the media's ineptitude more puzzling.

Unless of course you like conspiracy theories.

- posted by Cassandra

February 21, 2004 at 06:17 PM | Permalink

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Comments

...a sarcastic press snarkily showcased a John Kerry surrounded by veterans and asked, "Why haven't any of the President's Band of Brothers come to his defense?".--Cassandra

I have been told that some of my comments are "snarky", not sure how I feel about that now.
I take solace in the notion that even some in the Washington press corpse are the wind beneath someones wings.

Posted by: Pile On at Feb 21, 2004 9:12:54 PM

Mr. On:

It is perhaps true that some of your comments have been 'full of snark'...like when you are taking potshots at the author (which, come to think of it, is most of the time). On the other hand, occasionally your comments are incredibly witty and perceptive, such as when you are complimenting one of my posts. Admittedly, this is a rare occurrence, but this would be an example of a non-snarky comment.

However, snarky or non-snarky, you continue to be the wind beneath my wings. Of that you may rest assured. How else would I know how I was doing?

Posted by: Cassandra at Feb 22, 2004 12:02:23 AM

...and on further reflection, I am deeply hurt that you did not notice my deft use of alliteration in the phrase "sarcastic press snarkily showcased"... Had I only been able to think of a synonym for Press that began with the letter S, it would have been perfect, but alas...

Posted by: Cassandra at Feb 22, 2004 12:08:32 AM

I betcha Sheryl Crow could think of a snarky synonym for the press that begins with the letter S.
Come to think of it, there are other words that start with S that my post are full of.

Enough of this skylarking, I shall now sleep, slumberings self assured in my influence on the great Cassandra.

Posted by: Pile On at Feb 22, 2004 2:32:04 AM

Well I can think of one that has 7 letters and ends in with the letter S. I guess we can't all be Sheryl Crow...

Posted by: Cassandra at Feb 22, 2004 10:48:09 AM

Ha, you got censored on your own blog, hehe, but not before I saw the word, it does have a nice ring to it, and it does have alliteration working for it.

Posted by: Pile On at Feb 22, 2004 12:04:01 PM

Yeah, but I censored myself, so it doesn't count. HA!

Posted by: Cassandra at Feb 22, 2004 1:33:59 PM

THE DIFFERENCE IN THESE TWO RICH BOYS LIFES,ONE DID HIS DUTY,THE OTHER "SMIRKED"

Posted by: RAY EARLEY at Apr 28, 2004 8:23:18 AM

The last American ground troops left Vietnam in August,1972. One Month before you arrived.

Bush graduated Combat Crew Training school June 23rd, 1970. The Palace Alert Program was finally and officialy closed June 30th, 1970. 6 months after the decision to shut it down had been made and promulagated.

Thank you for going to Vietnam. Maybe you should have "volunteered" for something that was being phased out!

Posted by: vikingair at May 8, 2004 5:24:06 AM

The last American ground troops left Vietnam in August,1972. One Month before you arrived. Except Bush wasnt a dirty boot 2LT, he was a highly trained fighter pilot.

Bush graduated Combat Crew Training school June 23rd, 1970. The Palace Alert Program was finally and officialy closed June 30th, 1970. 6 months after the decision to shut it down had been made and promulagated.

Thank you for going to Vietnam. Maybe you should have "volunteered" for something that was being phased out!

Posted by: vikingair at May 8, 2004 5:25:16 AM

You don`t "volunteer" to get assigned to to any outfit in the military. If that were the case Kerry could have gotten his Purple Hearts in Washington D.C. as a senators aide and Clinton wouldn`t have been deserter since he would have "volunteered" for the same gravy duty.
Bush got assigned to his duty station and Kerry got assigned to his. To imply otherwise just shows ignorance of military practices.
The last U.S. ground troops officially left Vietnam in 1975, not `72.

Posted by: joatmoaf at May 8, 2004 10:26:56 AM