June 1, 2006

The Schwalier Case

I was the commander, JTF Southwest Asia, at the time of the Khobar Towers bombing and observed firsthand the exceptional force protection efforts undertaken by Brigadier General Schwalier. Additionally, he and I were closely involved with the three investigations that were conducted subsequent to the attack [“The Second Sacking of Terryl Schwalier,” April, p. 38].

I supported General Schwalier in his appeal to the Air Force Board for Correction of Military Records (AFBCMR) and was gratified that they found in favor of restoring his promotion to major general. However, I am dismayed to learn that once again the OSD has overruled due process and is yet again denying General Schwalier his promotion.

I want to thank Rebecca Grant for her excellent article detailing the byzantine way the OSD has worked to deny General Schwalier his due. I urge the Air Force Association not to let this issue die. Ms. Grant and the many Air Force leaders she quoted in her article have it right—Terry Schwalier was the victim of political pressure as well as a double standard, and he clearly deserves restoration of the promotion unfairly denied him in 1997.

Maj. Gen. Kurt B. Anderson,

USAF (Ret.)

Fort Worth, Tex.

Thanks so much for the rollout of information on Terry Schwalier’s cases. It is a marvelous summary and a good focus on the legal issue.

Col. George E. “Bud” Day,

USAF (Ret.)

Shalimar, Fla.

I have a question after reading Ms. Grant’s article: How many of the DOD lawyers (Paul S. Koffsky, Daniel J. Dell’Orto, and Mary L. Walker) involved in this latest injustice are holdovers from the reign of Secretary William Cohen? After all, how many lawyers have ever admitted to being wrong about anything? Clearly, bolstering their own self-image has to be more important than correcting any injustice done to a warfighter.

Maj. Jim Rotramel,

USAF (Ret.)

Lexington Park, Md.

Koffsky, Dell’Orto, and Walker came to the Pentagon as general counsels in 1980, 1998, and 2001, respectively.—the editors

I read with great interest the article by Rebecca Grant. I was appalled when they sacked this fine young general officer after the Khobar explosion. I recently spoke with [former Chief of Staff Gen.] Michael Ryan and congratulated him on his perserverance in this case.

Col. John E. Molchan,

USAF (Ret.)

Mesa, Ariz.

That was an awesome article by Ms. Rebecca Grant—informative, well-written, and objective (from where I stand). Thanks and kudos to Ms. Grant and Air Force Magazine for fighting to present the truth.

I am disappointed the Pentagon did not allow the Board for Correction of Miltary Records decision to stand. We should want to reverse, not perpetuate [the error].

Lt. Col. Roy Swygert,

USAF (Ret.)

Robins AFB, Ga.

The April 2006 article on Brigadier General Schwalier states, “In October 2000, al Qaeda operatives launched an audacious, waterborne bombing of the Navy destroyer USS Cole in Yemen’s Aden harbor. Seventeen US sailors perished. After this disaster, which happened on Cohen’s watch, the Pentagon chief did not seek a scapegoat. All realized that it was an act of war, and the ship’s captain was not faulted.”

While I was not faulted for the suicide terrorist attack, the subsequent Judge Advocate General Manual (JAGMAN) investigation pointed out that my entire chain of command and I did not do enough to anticipate this new type of threat that USS Cole was faced with on the day of the attack.

I have never wavered from the principle of accountability. As the former commanding officer of the USS Cole, I was the accountable officer for how my ship and heroic crew performed before, during, and after the attack. There is, however, a fundamental difference between accountability and blame.

As the commanding officer when USS Cole pulled into Aden, Yemen, for a brief stop for fuel, I chose to selectively implement a limited set of force protection procedures. This discretion, which the Navy allows its commanding officers, was based on my assessment of the threat and the conditions in the port, as they existed that morning. Through a confluence of unpredicted issues beyond my control, the crew of USS Cole and I were destined not to be able to protect our ship due to the lack of foresight by the entire chain of command, which failed to foresee and prepare us for the type of attack perpetrated by those suicide terrorist bombers. Even today, our military system is unable to defend against suicide terrorists anywhere in the world.

In January 2002 I was selected for promotion to captain. Since then, my promotion has been blocked or held up at various points in my chain of command, including the United States Senate. It currently remains in an undetermined status with the Secretary of the Navy, due to political concerns.

My career has been effectively terminated. I have not been promoted; I have not been given assignments of increased responsibility; nor have I been selected for future commands. This has occurred against the backdrop [where] every person in my chain of command has been either promoted or given positions of greater responsibility. This is the same chain of command that, according to the JAGMAN investigation, bore responsibility for the attack.

In short, I have suffered the same fate as Brigadier General Schwalier and have been made a political scapegoat in the War on Terrorism.

Cmdr. Kirk S. Lippold,


Alexandria, Va.

To Wear or Not To Wear

The pictures and article on battlefield airman school were very interesting, but I do have a question for you about the Army patches on the Air Force uniforms. [See “Battlefield Airman School,” April, p. 54.] I understand the patch on the left sleeve is for the Army unit they are attached to, and the patch on the right is the unit they spent time in a combat zone with. I have been told that the Air Force will allow the patches on the left if they are currently assigned to an Army unit, but the patch on the right must come off when you return Stateside. I spent time attached to an Army unit in Afghanistan and was informed there that I was able to wear the shoulder sleeve insignia on my right sleeve, but when I returned Stateside, I was told to “take off those Army patches” by an E-9 assigned to HQAFRC/SF (Air Force Reserve Security Forces). What is the current ruling on those Army patches? Thanks for your help and keep up with the great articles and information.

MSgt. Steve Pridgen,


Rocky Mount, N.C.

According to AFI 36-2903, Sept. 29, 2002, an airman currently aligned with and supporting an Army ground unit here in the US, or deployed and aligned with a ground unit, can wear the combat zone unit patch and the Army unit patch. But once that airman is no longer aligned with that Stateside or deployed ground unit, he can no longer wear those patches.—the editors

Defense Budget Chart Pages

I suggest that it would be informative to add to the “Defense Outlays as a Share of Gross Domestic Product,” [“Defense Budget Chart Pages,” April, p. 62] an overlay showing total Federal outlays as a share of the GDP for the same period.

Maj. Dean K. Boles,

USAF (Ret.)

Tucson, Ariz.

The Fall of Lima Site 85

[In] reference [to] “The Fall of Lima Site 85” [April, p. 66] and the posthumous award of the Air Force Cross to CMSgt. Richard L. Etchberger: I was executive officer to the vice chief of staff, Gen. John D. Ryan, when the recommendation for this award came to our office. As I recall, the vice chief was the final approving authority for all awards above the Distinguished Flying Cross. General Ryan had charged me with reviewing all recommendations and then giving him my views for the awards and if they should be approved or not.

I distinctly remember the recommendation for Chief Master Sergeant Etchberger. After reading all the supporting documentation, I went into General Ryan’s office and told him that as far as I was concerned, this had every element for the Congressional Medal of Honor rather than the Air Force Cross.

After reading all the supporting documents, General Ryan said that he agreed. However, we had to consider that the Congressional medal could not be awarded without national news attention. Due to the sensitivity of Lima Site 85’s location, the circumstances surrounding its role, and the subsequent loss, these factors could not be revealed. We could, however, fly the Etchberger family to Washington and in a quiet, appropriate ceremony award the Air Force Cross without national fanfare.

I then told General Ryan that I understood this rationale, but in fairness to Chief Master Sergeant Etchberger felt that his records should be flagged so that they would be reviewed periodically. When the conditions and circumstances surrounding Lima Site 85 were no longer classified as top secret and the true story could be revealed, then the orders awarding the Air Force Cross could be rescinded and the Congressional medal be awarded. General Ryan agreed wholeheartedly.

I have often wondered if this recommendation was carried out. It must have fallen through the crack somewhere along the line.

Col. Ruffin W. Gray,

USAF (Ret.)

Diamondhead, Miss.

I first read about Lima Site 85 in a Bangkok Post Sunday supplement in 1972. Bangkok Post’s intel was pretty good. More than once, I read about a new secret project in the Post over breakfast, before getting the official briefing later at the office. Even so, I had learned to distrust most of what I heard about Laos, even from my “contractors” there.

One thing I did know was, during the 1973 Arab oil embargo, I bought the fuel for the friendly forces in Southeast Asia. Summit Oil had the contract for northern Thailand and Laos. One of Summit’s delivery stops was a mountain radar station in [northeastern] Laos near the North Vietnam border. Coincidence? This was a half-year after the Paris Peace Accords were signed.

Paul J. Madden

Seatac, Wash.

As a young airman stationed at Udorn, Thailand, in 1966-67, who made several trips out of country into Laos, I read this article with a great sense of respect and admiration for the men who volunteered for this hazardous duty.

At the same time, I cannot help but question the mentality of leaders who would place these personnel in a highly precarious situation without adequate means to protect them or at least provide them with a timely escape mechanism such as an on-site helicopter. The fact that these airmen were not even armed until several days before the attack, and then only with M-16s, verges on the absurd.

It seemed to us that every time we went “up country” and surrendered our military IDs and other identifiers to go “covert,” the only people our leaders thought we were deceiving were our elected officials in Washington, since the enemy always knew who the “round eyes” were, and they made no distinction in attempting to kill us whether we were military, CIA, or civilians.

Hopefully, the tragedy and negligence of LS-85 will be studied in the classrooms of our future leaders as a case study of how not to waste brave American lives for an operation that was questionable at best.

My thoughts and prayers go out to these men, who so proudly served our country, and their families.

Charles Miller

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Tell the Story

John Correll’s excellent recounting of Lt. Col. Bill Jones’ bravery [“Determination of a Sandy,” March, p. 42] reminded me where I had heard that name before.

As a member of the Air War College faculty for seven years, I walked into Jones Auditorium many hundreds of times. I do recall reading the bronze plaque, but paid it no special attention over the years since we did not always do a good job of celebrating our heroes as part of the curriculum. With the benefit of hindsight, it would be most appropriate for the AWC commandant to open each class with a brief recounting of this Medal of Honor recipient for the benefit of the international officers and other service class members.

Col. Vic Budura,

USAF (Ret.)

Huntsville, Ala.

Balancing Act

The April 2006 article “The Tehran Triad,” p. 74, does a good job of outlining Iran’s relative political, economic, and military strengths and weaknesses and makes a solid case that at least part of their security strategy is “asymmetric” when arrayed against America’s strengths. Iran, however, is employing both traditional and asymmetric means to counter the US because they have little choice. The Iranian regime’s bellicosity, increasingly evident as American forces remain preoccupied by the war against terrorism and everything else in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, is an attempt to buy time. Iran is faced with social and political instability on their eastern and western borders, in both instances current areas of dominant American interest and substantial American forces. To their north, Iran sees a fair-weather ally that they probably cannot count on in a pinch.

Internally, there are other uncertainties that the Iranian regime must deal with, including a large, youthful population that is increasingly questioning Iran’s economic choices, form of government, hard-line foreign policies, and support to terrorist organizations. Among these internal issues, and possibly the most threatening, are the questions of Kurdish autonomy and the status of the large Kurdish population inside Iranian borders. The regime may be able to keep the Iranian Kurds down, but Iraqi and Iranian Kurds aligned with the US in a strategy to destabilize the Iranian regime would increase Iran’s security problems exponentially.

The Iranian regime may also envision their worst nightmare, a stable, united Iraq, allied with the US with a substantial US military presence remaining in Iraq. The regime in Tehran has much to fear in the various potential post-OIF and -OEF futures, and they are pursuing an eclectic strategy because it’s all they can do short of appearing to capitulate to US demands, which would further undermine the regime’s legitimacy. This regime is apparently convinced that their brash rhetoric, combined with increased conventional strength, looming nuclear capabilities, and continued support to terrorism, offer them the most flexibility in responding to future events. They may also believe that their strategy provides them the time they need to strengthen their position in the area relative to the US by continuing to support insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan until the US gives up or substantially reduces its goals. Despite views to the contrary, Iran is pursuing a rational strategy, but it is a risky strategy, too.

The greatest risk to Iran is that their bellicosity and efforts to enhance their conventional and nuclear military capability could have the unintended consequence of creating equally hard-line positions among the US, its allies, and unsympathetic UN members. Iran’s oil and gas reserves aside, it has little to offer potential adversaries that would keep hard-line rhetoric from becoming hard-line reality, resulting in more stringent economic sanctions and escalating political tensions. Iran does not want to become another North Korea, but both the US and Iran have a narrow beam to traverse, and the only potentially good result requires both to stay on the beam. This will be a difficult, if not impossible, balancing act.

Col. Rick Harris,

USMCR (Ret.)

McLean, Va.

Needed: An Alternative JSF Engine

[Regarding “Aerospace World: Congress Hits JSF Engine Cut … While London Weighs In,” April, p. 17]: I was assigned to the Maintenance and Engineering Directorate of Tactical Air Command at Langley AFB, Va., from 1974 to 1977, first as the chief of the F-15 Branch and then as the chief of the Fighter Reconnaissance Division. As such, I became painfully aware of, and had to deal with, the reliability problems of the F-15 engine (the Pratt & Whitney F100) on a daily basis—the main engine problem being the tendency of the P&W F100 to develop a stall stagnation which resulted in an in-flight engine shutdown.

In September of 1977, I was assigned to the 388th TFW at Hill AFB, Utah, as the deputy commander for maintenance. The 388th was scheduled to be the first F-16 operational wing and was also the organization that was to be responsible for maintaining the 12 F-16s assigned to the Multinational Operational Test and Evaluation program and for training the maintenance personnel from the four foreign MOT&E nations, i.e., Norway, Netherlands, Denmark, and Belgium. One of the main reasons I was assigned as the 388th DCM was because of the extensive experience I had with the F-16 engine, the P&W F100, the same as that used in the F-15.

Within a few months’ time after receiving our first F-16s in January of 1979, we experienced our first F-16 stall stagnation and dead stick landing at an auxiliary field near the gunnery range on the desert. Indeed, it was only after that first F-16 flameout landing that official engine-out approach and landing procedures were included in the F-16 “Dash 1.” It was shortly after our second successful flameout landing (if my memory serves me correctly it was an MOT&E aircraft) that we were paid a visit by the Secretary of the Air Force, Dr. Hans Mark, who requested a briefing on the status of the F-16 beddown.

After I concluded my briefing, Dr. Mark asked me what I thought was the most important thing that we could do to improve F-16 maintainability, reliability, and safety. My answer? It was imperative that an alternative engine to the P&W F100 be developed and procured. I said that procurement of an alternative engine would drive both manufacturers to improve reliability, operational performance, and price, and, most importantly, I stated that we were headed for an all F-15/F-16 fighter force and if this force were equipped with a sole source engine and if in the future this engine developed a serious flaw, then we would have seriously jeopardized the capability of the United States Air Force to defend the United States of America. It was not too long after that visit by Dr. Mark that USAF announced that a contract was being awarded to GE to develop an alternative to the P&W F100 engine.

The point I am trying to make here is that I firmly believe that those arguments I put forth for an alternative to the F-16 P&W F100 engine are as valid today for the JSF engine as they were 27 years ago for the F-16 engine, perhaps even more so, since the JSF is being procured by the Air Force, Navy, and the Marine Corps.

Col. Gene Cirillo,

USAF (Ret.)

Gold River, Calif.

Airpower Classics

I received my April issue of Air Force Magazine and quickly turned to the back to see what this month’s airpower classic would be [“Airpower Classics: F6F Hellcat,” p. 96]. Oh, the humiliation, a Navy plane already!

MSgt. Stephen L. Childers,

USAF (Ret.)

Wyoming, Del.

Your Navy F6F airpower classic feature is the most comprehensive, accurate, and complete Hellcat article I have ever seen, and on one page! The F6F-5 was the first aircraft engine I ever started (1948). Well done, AFA.

Capt. Norman S. Bull,

USN (Ret.)

Crownsville, Md.

[“Airpower Classics: F6F Hellcat”] correctly states that Navy and Marine Corps F6F pilots, both carrier and land-based, were credited with shooting down 5,156 Japanese aircraft in the Pacific. However, not mentioned are the 47 “kills” scored by British Fleet Air Arm pilots in the PTO. Ditto the 13 air victories scored by American and British pilots in Europe, giving the Hellcat a grand total of 5,216 air victories.

Steve Blake

Mission Viejo, Calif.

Your article in the April magazine on the F6F Hellcat was of special interest to me because of my year of exchange duty with the Navy back in 1952-53. My squadron commander at the time I completed my Navy tour was Cmdr. Hamilton McWhorter III, who was the Navy’s first F6F ace. As a lieutenant (j.g.) in November 1943, he shot down his fifth Japanese plane, all victories coming in the Hellcat. Mac was a great pilot and is still a good friend.

Col. Ed Mason,

USAF (Ret.)

Alexandria, Va.

Let me add my own enthusiastic approval of “Airpower Classics” and particularly the one on the F6F Hellcat where you note that it “briefly equipped Blue Angels after World War II.”

I was a pilot in training in Ontario in 1950 when my class learned that the RCAF Vampire aerobatic team, as well as the Blue Angels Hellcat team, would be putting on a show at the Willow Run airfield across the border in Detroit. We drove en masse to watch them, and though I have seen countless shows since, none enthralled me as much as these two teams—the main reason being they were small and maneuverable aircraft that rarely left the confines of the field, and I suspect there were no restrictions on how low they could go or how close to the crowds they could come. Even the taxiing in was a thrill: All those P&W R2800 snorting and belching and the Vampires whining and screeching with their kerosene smells are memories that have outlived most others in a lifetime in aviation.

George Fulford

Mill Valley, Calif.

Do you have a comment about a current article in the magazine? Write to “Letters,” Air Force Magazine, 1501 Lee Highway, Arlington, VA 22209-1198. (E-mail: letters@afa.org.) Letters should be concise and timely. We cannot acknowledge receipt of letters. We reserve the right to condense letters. Letters without name and city/base and state are not acceptable. Photographs can­­not be used or returned.—the editors