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Archives: June 2008


Pilot error in last April’s close call for Fort Lewis soldiers in Utah

An Air Force investigation says an F-16 pilot failed “to positively identify the intended target” when he opened fire on a rental SUV occupied by two Fort Lewis soldiers last April at the Utah Test and Training Range.

The soldiers, from the post’s 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, narrowly avoided serious injury. One of the five 20mm rounds the pilot fired into the vehicle hit about a foot behind the driver’s side door, said a spokeswoman at Hill Air Force Base.

The two soldiers from 5th Brigade’s 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment suffered cuts and scrapes when they jumped out of the truck. Through a Fort Lewis spokesman they declined to be interviewed Wednesday.

The mishap occurred about 10:50 p.m. April 8 as soldiers from the 8-1 and Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, or JTACs, from Fort Lewis’ 5th Air Support Operations Squadron trained with fighter pilots out of Hill.

Hill spokeswoman Lt. Beth Woodward identified the pilot only as a major with the 34th Fighter Squadron who was training for a May deployment to the Middle East. The squadron deployed on schedule but left the pilot at home, she said.

He had over 800 flying hours at the time of the mishap and was rated as current in his training and qualified to fly the mission.

The pilot was grounded during the investigation. As a result of the findings, he now must fly at the direction of a wingman and “additional classroom, simulator and flight training is required to ensure the individual is qualified for wing missions,” the 388th Fighter Wing said in a news release announcing the results of the investigation.

The night of the accident, the pilot was flying one of two jets intending to strafe a mock armored vehicle on the Utah training range. The two Fort Lewis soldiers were in their SUV parked near an observation post a mile-and-a-half away.

JTACs on the ground and the pilot’s wingman properly marked the correct target, and the soldiers in the SUV had properly marked their vehicle, Woodward said.

“The investigation team found it most likely that at some point in the pilot’s turn (which began at a lower altitude than the pilot planned), after looking inside the cockpit to check his flight parameters, he mistook the set of lights at the Hornet Tower Observation Point as the laser mark provided by his wingman,” she said. “In the end, he was trying to make the strafing pass work, and most likely was concentrating on his flight parameters more than the target area itself.”

Press release is below:

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Big bucks for Fort Lewis, McChord in fy 09

This just in from Les Blumenthal, our DC Bureau guy:

WASHINGTON – The House Appropriations Committee has approved a record $477.5 million in funding for construction at Washington state’s military bases, with the bulk of it designated for Fort Lewis.

The committee added an additional $20 million over what was included in the Bush administration’s budget submitted to Congress in February, including $8.6 million to house the 262nd Information Warfare Aggressor Squadron at McChord Air Force Base.

“This will do amazing things for our bases,” Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., a member of the Appropriations Committee, said of the funding for Fort Lewis, McChord and the Navy’s major installations along Puget Sound.

The funding level is roughly $100 million more than the record amount being spent during the current fiscal year.

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1st Group gets a new sergeant major

Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery D. Stigall takes over today for Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Sherlock at the 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis.

Stigal comes from 10th Group at Fort Carson, Colo., where he was 3rd Battalion’s CSM the past two years. He’s been in SF for 18 years, 10 of them at 1st Group, according to a group press release.

Sherlock is moving to become senior enlisted adviser to Special Operations Command Korea.


GAO’s take on progress in Iraq

Last week we heard Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assess the U.S. military’s progress in Iraq. “The trends are good, but we’ve got to get it to the point where it’s sustainable and irreversible, and we’re not there yet," Mullen said.

The Government Accountability Office today made public its view on that question.


Wear your life jacket, and lay off the booze on your boat

This is a little far off the beaten path of normal fare for this blog but given the season and the pending fine weather I feel obligated to pass it along.

The Coast Guard says recreational boating fatalities are way up this year over last.

Through Friday there were 28 so far this year in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, compared with 23 by this date last year. Twenty-two of the 28 “could have been prevented if only the persons involved would have been wearing a lifejacket,” the Coast Guard says in a press release.

Washington State leads with 12 fatalities, up from 11 this time last year. Of those 12, 11 persons were not wearing lifejackets. Though there are laws requiring children 12 years of age and under to wear lifejackets while on a boat two of the 12 fatalities were children.

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More on Sgt. Michael T. Washington

My colleague Brian Everstine, who wrote today’s front-page story about the return of Marine Sgt. Michael T. Washington’s remains, reports that there is an address where folks can send their condolences to the family and make contributions in his memory.

Condolences can be sent to the Washington family at P.O. Box 24552, Federal Way 98093.

Donations can be sent to Seattle’s Bravest Charity, Seattle Fire Fighters Union Local

27, 517 2nd Ave. W., Seattle 98119.

Click here for information about services.


Mullen visit: Health care a big deal

The lead anecdote in my story today covered just one portion of Adm. Mullen’s extended visit with the staff of the Warrior Transition Battalion. Getting the care and treatment of wounded and injured soldiers right is clearly something he and his wife, Deborah, have been spending a lot of time on – they asked a lot of questions and shared observations from what they’d been seeing and hearing at other military installations.

Mullen has been making these trips almost weekly since he became chairman in October, one of his aide’s said.

Access to care for families,

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