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September 20, 2004

In late 1990 or early 1991, shortly after my return from Korea to stateside duty, and during the windup to Gulf War 1, the call went out in our unit for volunteers to go to the Persian Gulf theater to do classified work in various headquarters elements.

This was unusual in that our division (7th Infantry) was tasked for deployment to Korea in case something happened while the bulk of the Army was otherwise engaged in the sandbox.

The only requirement for the volunteers was the appropriately high security clearance, and due to the nature of our unit (107th MI Battalion) pretty nearly everyone had the necessary clearance.

Our company commander, or maybe it was our first sergeant, made the call for volunteers one morning during first formation.

"Let me see a show of hands... Koreans put your hands down!"

Those of us who were Korean linguists were not allowed to volunteer to go to the war zone. About twenty of us — yes, yours truly included — already had our hands up and had to lower them.

So now, what I get to say about my service is that I am a Gulf War Era veteran.

[Ultimately, only six from our company were sent over, where they acted as classified file clerks in Schwartzkopf's headquarters, I think. Six months later, they came back with a bunch of medals and service ribbons, and a combat patch on their sleeve. <shrug>]

Roll back the calendar to the early 1970s, and consider the "Palace Alert" program.

Col. William Campenni:

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.

This morning on Fox & Friends, E. D. Hill interviewed Colonel Earl Lively, TANG (ret.)

E. D. Hill: We're rejoined by Colonel Earl Lively, and just to set it up, he spoke to the person who was directly above the Colonel who allegedly wrote these memos [COL Killian - ed] regarding George Bush, and he talked to the person directly below him as well. That person is now deceased, so the person above and below would have the most knowledge.

You say that they both told you that President Bush volunteered to go on a tour of rotation in Vietnam, and I haven't heard that before. What did they tell you, exactly?

COL Lively: Well, they had a program called Palace Alert where Air National Guard F-102s were rotated to Vietnam to fly cover for the fighter-bombers. And, well, people talk about the Air National Guard not being in Vietnam. They had a presence there, and the F-102 did actually go. General Hodges himself went on a tour, and they had people volunteer for that, and Lieutenant Bush, [Colonel] Via said LT Bush volunteered and everyone I've talked to said he did, but they were only taking their most experienced pilots, long-time pilots who had experience in air-to-air combat tactics and he was refused. Killian's sons said that his father told him that and Colonel Via told me that again yesterday.

Don't try to tell me that LT Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard to avoid going to Vietnam. It looks to me like he raised his hand, only to be told "no."

Update, 9/27/04: Russell Wardlow comments. So does Bill Hobbs.

Posted by Russ at 08:50 AM, September 20, 2004 in Politics

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