Two U.S. Army pilots charged with ferrying American military brass around Iraq decided to speak out about the vulnerability of their aircraft. Their reward: criminal charges.
Chief Warrant Officers William Lovett and Robert Jones have 53 years of service between them in the active duty and Army Reserves. Jones has flown in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and Bosnia.
But their current mission in central Iraq may be their last. Long before U.S. helicopters were being shot down, the reserve pilots told National Defense Magazine their planes were not properly equipped to fly in a war zone. That interview, which appeared in the September 2003 issue of the magazine, has now led to the charges of dereliction of duty against the pilots for disclosing "vulnerabilities" of the "mission, procedures, and aircraft."
"These are planes that fly around generals, they fly around VIPs," said attorney Eugene Fidell, who is representing Lovett. "He and the other people involved should not be facing a court-martial; they should be getting decorations for this."
The reserve pilots fly the VIPs around in C-12 and UC -35 aircraft — the military equivalent of a Beechcraft King Air and a Cessna Citation.
But there aren't many differences between the military and the civilian aircraft. Both are defenseless.
They are the only Army aircraft operating in Iraq without any equipment to warn or defend against surface-to-air missiles....
Look, I don't know -- is it just a flat-out violation for a member of the armed services to say something like this, something that's presumably not in any way a military secret? And does it really make sense to fly these planes in a war zone? Do we really have no alternative?