Magazine article Insight on the News

Left-Wingers' Attacks on Bush Are Slap in Face to Servicemen

Magazine article Insight on the News

Left-Wingers' Attacks on Bush Are Slap in Face to Servicemen

Article excerpt

Byline: John H. Wambough Jr., SPECIAL TO INSIGHT

George W. Bush and I were fighter pilots. Lt. Bush flew F-102s in the Air National Guard 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron; I flew F-105s in combat with the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Both our flying assignments were inherently dangerous Bush's because of the high-performance nature of the fighter-interceptor aircraft he was flying, the training required to fly the F-102, and the high risks that come with all-weather (night and day) intercept missions.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and the antiwar left wing of the Democratic Party relentlessly have attacked the service of Bush and by inference other pilots and service members in the Air National Guard and Reserve forces as cowards and shirkers of responsibility for not being in Vietnam. Their flippant slandering of our Guard and Reserve forces in an effort to discredit President Bush and win an election is beyond the pale. They have no decency left.

Lt. Bush's opportunity to fly jets and serve his country came through the Air National Guard when he was 22 years old. Like Bush, my goal as a young man was to fly high-performance jet-fighter aircraft, and both of us realized our dream. I don't remember looking ahead at that time in my life (and I'm sure Bush didn't either) to what missions we could be assigned peacetime or wartime. All we wanted to do as young men was to fly these magnificent flying machines (jets) and enjoy the opportunity to serve our country. Contributing to the Air National Guard's air-defense mission, Bush flew hundreds of hours in the F-102, the world's first supersonic, all-weather jet-interceptor aircraft; he served his country protecting the United States.

Neither Lt. Bush nor I had control over mission assignment, where we would be deployed or how the service would task the units to which we were assigned. Bush gladly would have gone to Vietnam or anywhere else his unit was deployed, but the reality was that he had no say as to how his unit would be utilized to support our country's national-security interests. Such decisions were above our pay grade. Bush's mission as a squadron fighter-interceptor pilot was to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft inbound to the United States Soviet nuclear bombers, for example. Remember, we were still in the Cold War in the 1970s and air defense was a high-priority mission. Today our air-defense forces protect us against aircraft with terrorists on board.

I can say from my experience that flying operational fighter jets is highly dangerous. People don't strap fighter jets to their backside if they are overly concerned for their future. While in F-105 training at McConnell Air Force Base in early 1968, we lost five aircraft in six weeks (one aircraft crashed in air-to-air combat training, one aircraft crashed on the air-to-ground gunnery range, one crashed on takeoff, one crashed on final approach at a nearby airfield, and one crashed coming back from a cross-country mission). My nephew was killed while flying a Marine Corp EA-6B Prowler during a low-level stateside training mission. I was in a flight where an F-105 pilot was killed while we were training on an air-ground gunnery range. Also, I've been in F-105 and F-111 operational units where a number of pilots were killed while training for their wartime missions. We got really good at flying "missing-man formations" and doing memorial services for our fallen comrades and their families. I can assure you that Bush was continuously exposed to similar dangers during all-weather scrambles and during training exercises, as evidenced by the F-102 pilots killed in his unit.

Cowards (or people who lack courage) don't take on the risks that Lt. Bush did in flying fighter-interceptor aircraft. Flying jets in wing formation in all kinds of weather and carrying explosive ordnance on board is dangerous work. The pilots in these squadrons (including Bush) did what their country asked them to do. …

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