07-29-2001, 09:41 PM
From COL Des Barker, Officer Commanding TFDC:
They were superb
So how have they [women fighter pilots] been doing to date? From 1980 to 1984, Maj A. Rypka, USN-ret, 4000 flight hours, and 1000 combat hours was the commanding officer of a composite unit which had among its missions Dissimilar Air Combat Manoeuvring (DACM), ie adversary training. All of our adversary pilots, myself included, went through a 100+ flight in the squadron syllabus followed by completing Top Gun with annual re-certification with Top Gun aviators prior to designation as a DACM Instructor and actually participating in DACM with other Navy/Marine/USAF/Allied units.
Our first tour pilots included two women pilots that were members of the original class of women that went through the Naval air training command in the late 1970's. They were superb. A Top Gun instructor once stated in debrief of an annual certification flight that one of them, "if she was a man, she would be in the top ten of fleet fighter pilots". I stated that "she is one of the top ten fighter pilots". The Top Gunner thought a moment and said, "you're right, I wasn't precise". I ranked these two aviators 1 and 5 of 9 aviators of their rank and experience. I would cheerfully go into combat leading or being led by either of these fine aviators. I would trust my son or daughter to be trained and led into combat by either of these two aviators. I hold them in the same high respect as the other male fighter pilots I have had the honour to fly with. On the other hand, I have also met and dealt with a woman aviator and expressed the facts and opinions of why I felt she should be disciplined to her commanding officer, as bluntly as I have stated the foregoing.
Several unresolved questions still exist today regarding the untimely death of F-14 pilot Lt Kara Hultgreen, one of two women trained to fly the Navy's F-14 Tomcat. Former F-14 instructor Lt Patrick J. Burns, whose warnings about the women's unreadiness for the hazards of carrier aviation were disregarded by local commanders, was featured in a CBS "Sixty Minutes" segment that was aired on April 19, 1998. As confirmed by a Navy report, a "race" was on with the Air Force to get women into combat aviation. Low scores and major errors that would have disqualified others were forgiven, so that women would not fail. What this argument misses is that women have been in and doing as good as the men for a long time now. It's just that some men find it difficult to recognise it. Or they will fixate on a female failure as some sort of sign from God that all women are bad (ignoring, of course, male failures). Reality is that the women are doing fine, some are good, and some are not.
07-30-2001, 10:14 AM
Excellent post Ann. As the COL so aptly points out too many focus on the failures and totally disregard the sucesses. Yes, there are women that fail and there have been hidden agenda's at times, but this does not disqualify all women.
I posted below about the sucesses of the Soviet women pilots during WWII and the hardships of the WASPS after the war. Although they had proven their capabilites, they were pretty much thrown away simply because they were women.
I will be the first to say that not all women are up to the task, but I will also point out that not all men are either. That is what training is about, weeding out the nonperformers. Not only have women slipped through the cracks, but so have men, it's just not sensationalized.
Not one word is mentioned of the serious military blunders of late that were not the cause of women, but rather the cause of either poor leadership or poor training or poor policies. Had there been women at the lead, there is no doubt in my military mind that it would have been strictly been blamed because a woman was at the helm at the time.
The bottom line, for me, is that men are afforded the opportunity to prove their mettle without question, but women are denied based on the fact that they are women, not what they are capable of. Again, not every women is going to be able to perform, but for those who desire to serve in these capacities, they are not even given the opportunity to prove their worth, it is a blanket turn down based on sex.
Do not let LTC Tucker get under your skin. No matter what you provide, he will still not believe it. He cannot believe that there are people out there that believe women can and will perform in combat. Like many other subjects in this world you will find those who are pro and for those that are pro you will find those who have supporting evidence that is con. It all boils down to what you truly believe. LTC Tucker will always believe there is no place for women in combat no matter what you provide. Just like there are many out there like COL Baker, who will believe that women are capable and are proving they are capable.
Another thing to consider is that you are active duty while LTC Tucker is Reserve. You do the job full time, yet with all his complaints about women in the service, he does not commit himself to the military full time. If he is the calibre of leader that he expounds himself to be, then I would think that he would be pounding down the door to fulfill his destiny as a warrior.
And that was not a slam on those who serve in the Reserves or the National Guard. They are a vital force that is needed and serve honorably in all actions that they have been affilliated with. I was merely pointing out that for someone who is vehement against women in combat (and at times truly sarcastic about questions women ask) and their destruction to the warrior spirit, here is an example of one who would rather stand on the outside and deride your commitment and accomplishments rather than take on the full time commitment of the military.
08-24-2001, 04:39 PM
CENTER FOR MILITARY READINESS
Legal Defense Update – June 2001
On April 22, 1996, a lawsuit was filed in the Washington D.C. U.S. District Court against the Center for Military Readiness—an independent, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) educational organization that specializes in military personnel issues—and CMR President Elaine Donnelly. The plaintiff is Lt. Carey Dunai Lohrenz, who was trained to fly the F-14 in the same class as the late Lt. Kara Hultgreen. On October 25, 1994, Lt. Hultgreen died while attempting to land on the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
With the help of Susan Barnes, a feminist activist and Denver-based attorney associated with former Rep. Patricia Schroeder, Lohrenz accused Elaine Donnelly of libel and defamation, and blamed CMR for her inability to succeed in carrier aviation. At issue is the 1995 CMR Special Report: Double Standards in Naval Aviation, which included actual training records released as a last resort by Lt. Patrick J. Burns, one of Lohrenz’ instructors. During a fair but favorable segment of CBS 60 Minutes in April 1998, Lt. Burns said that he had repeatedly expressed his concerns about the women’s safety to local commanders, but his warnings were ignored due to post-Tailhook political pressures. Shortly after the death of Lt. Hultgreen, Lt. Burns approached CMR and asked for help.
CMR has invoked the First Amendment in defending the right to comment on issues of major public importance, including credible evidence of double standards in naval aviation training. Contrary to official denials at the time of Lt. Hultgreen’s death, the first two women trained to fly the F-14 had benefited from extraordinary concessions in training that elevated risks in the already-dangerous field of carrier aviation.
Some Navy spokesmen led the public to believe that Lt. Hultgreen’s death was the result of engine failure. Two Navy reports later confirmed that the accident was primarily caused—as most aviation accidents are—by pilot error. There was no need for the Navy to “vindicate” Lt. Hultgreen, a courageous pilot who died in service to her country. By issuing statements that misled the public about the circumstances of her death and the training that preceded it, some Navy officials apparently were trying to vindicate their own actions regarding the female pilots.
The Issue: Safety and High Standards in Naval Aviation
Lts. Hultgreen and Lohrenz were allowed to qualify for carrier aviation despite a pattern of low scores and major errors marked with “pink sheets” for unsatisfactory performance. Then-Lt. Lohrenz, first described by CMR as “Pilot B,” had a dismal record of dangerously inconsistent performance. Lohrenz earned seven “pink sheets,” one of which was not recorded so that she could graduate. After writing to the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Strom Thurmond, Donnelly met several times with the Navy’s top officials, including Chief of Naval Operations (Adm. Jeremy Boorda) and Vice Chief of Naval Operations (Adm. Stanley Arthur). Adm. Arthur sent an emissary (Rear Adm. Lyle Bien) to investigate the facts that, with only a few minor discrepancies, were found to be “largely accurate.” CMR also learned that Navy leaders had no intention of doing anything to correct the problem.
In the belief that aviation safety is a matter of public concern, CMR published the
comprehensive CMR Special Report: Double Standards in Naval Aviation, which was the subject of news and commentary in the Washington Times and many other newspapers. The 20-page CMR Special Report was supported by 104 pages of training records and related documents. In her complaint, Lohrenz claimed that more public discussion about the possibility of special treatment for women in naval aviation training caused her to lose confidence and her career.
In May 1995, a Field Naval Aviation Evaluation Board (FNAEB) removed Carey Lohrenz from carrier aviation. Documents obtained from the Navy indicate that this action was taken due to poor performance trends observed long before the CMR Special Report was published. Air wing commanders, squadron instructors, and landing signal officers repeatedly expressed concern about Lohrenz’ chronic tendency to land dangerously “high and fast.” A senior landing signal officer described her carrier approaches as “unpredictable, undisciplined and unresponsive.” Several others signed statements indicated that Lohrenz frequently disregarded instructors’ warnings about unsafe practices, and blamed her mistakes on others.
Interestingly enough, FNAEB appeals written by Lohrenz in 1995 conceded major points that she is contesting now. This reflects the unethical strategy of attorney Susan Barnes. To support her client’s charges in this action and another lawsuit against the Navy, Barnes concocted a bizarre “Tailhook Underground” conspiracy theory. In a sworn affidavit, she alleged that resentful male aviators and an admiral—most of whom were completely unknown to Donnelly—plotted with her to destroy the career of Carey Lohrenz. The conspiracy story was preposterous, but it served to extract an undeserved $150,000 settlement from the Navy.
Discovery documents and testimony gathered over the past five years have demolished Barnes’ unsupported allegations against the Navy and CMR. Nevertheless, Ms. Barnes is still searching for something—anything—to support her case. Navy officials capitulated with a generous settlement for Lohrenz, but CMR is fighting back against the politically motivated calumny that underlies the lawsuit. Excerpts of recent testimony demonstrate why it is so important to defend the CMR position and win this case.
Attorneys are confident of vindication, because the CMR Special Report was published with due care and without malice. Prior to publication, author Elaine Donnelly went straight to top authorities to verify the truth of the situation. Statements published in the CMR Special Report were true and absolutely protected by the First Amendment. Relevant facts were confirmed by several investigations, including the Naval Inspector General’s 1997 Report on the Integration of Women into Carrier Air Wing Eleven, which found no evidence of discrimination against Lohrenz.
Furthermore, the Plaintiff is a public figure, as defined in libel law. Scores of contemporaneous news reports, dating back to 1993, indicate that controversy surrounding women combat pilots and safety in naval aviation were issues of public interest and concern.
The Center for Military Readiness is being represented by noted constitutional lawyer Kent Masterson Brown, who is of counsel with Webster, Chamberlain & Bean in Washington D.C. Frank Northam and Christopher Shaughnessy bring additional expertise to the legal team.
H H H H
Contributions to the CMR Legal Defense Fund are tax-deductible, and may be sent to: CMR/LDF, P. O. Box 51600, Livonia, MI 48151.
08-24-2001, 04:40 PM
The Boys from Syracuse: The Rest of the Story
The Navy Inspector General’s 1997 report on Air Wing Eleven confirmed that the post-Tailhook Navy was in a "race" with the Air Force to get women into combat aviation. This edition of CMR Notes analyzes what was happening on the Air Force’s side of the race.
CMR first wrote about the "Syracuse Social Experiment" in February 1996. The story centers on Maj. Jacquelyn Parker, an F-16 pilot whose failure to become the first woman in aviation combat almost destroyed a New York Air National Guard (NYANG) fighter wing that used to be known as the "Boys from Syracuse."
When Maj. Parker resigned from the 174th Fighter Wing in June of 1995, military and civilian authorities conducted two major investigations to find out why. Findings of the two inquiries were dramatically different in matters of fact, but disappointingly similar in the "spin" that was used in portraying Maj. Parker as an almost-blameless victim of discrimination.
At the height of last year’s controversy over B-52 pilot Lt. Kelly Flinn, her supporters argued that "antiquated" rules regarding personal behavior in the military should be weakened or abolished. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen responded by establishing a special task force to study the subject, which has yet to make its report. The story of Syracuse is important not because of what it says about the mistakes and personal failings of individual men and women, but because it is relevant to the Pentagon’s current review of rules regarding personal conduct. Syracuse is an object lesson in what can happen when sound principles of leadership, good order and discipline are abandoned, and a dangerous social experiment goes horribly awry.
On June 21, 1995, after struggling for 12 months with training that usually takes three to four months to complete, Air National Guard Maj. Jacquelyn Parker suited up for her final check ride in the F-16. Despite concerns about her overall proficiency, Operations Group Commander Lt. Col. Raymond DuFour had already approved Parker’s deployment to Iraq, where she would become the first woman in combat aviation, patrolling a no-fly zone as part of Operation Provide Comfort.
To participate in the operation, Maj. Parker had to successfully complete a final training flight, simulating combat conditions over Iraq when two Air Force F-15 pilots descended and mistakenly shot down two American Blackhawk helicopters, killing 26 people. The exercise was a four-aircraft low altitude step-down (LASDT) training flight, and she was expected to pass. Instead, Maj. Parker’s career came to an abrupt end, following a low-altitude maneuver that her instructor, Maj. Jeffrey Ecker, considered extremely dangerous.
Parker’s mission, described as a "pretty benign scenario," was to intercept two low-flying A-10s proceeding toward her aircraft from a known point. On her first three intercept attempts, Parker failed to obtain radar or visual identification—a critical skill needed to avoid the targeting of "friendly" aircraft. Her fourth attempt, at about 3,000 feet above the ground, almost ended in disaster.
When Parker flew over the A-10s and finally spotted them behind her, she over-banked her plane by about 120 degrees and started to pull the nose down. According to instructor Ecker, a skilled pilot might have been able to execute the turn safely, but Parker’s inept performance throughout the mission suggested that she would have crashed into the ground. Fortunately, Ecker was in position to see the dangerous maneuver, with sufficient time to yell, "knock it off" on the radio.
Maj. Ecker described Maj. Parker’s reaction to the near-death experience in his testimony before the New York State Inspector General:
"[Parker] was still a little pale-looking to me and I was ...upset about it too....I’m starting to think about what could have happened....[M]y problem with this protracted re-flying schedule was that I thought that someday she was [going to] hit the ground and [we would] be in an investigation on the other side of the coin saying, ‘How could you let her fly 50 rides in an 8 ride program knowing that she was never developing the skills to tactically employ the airplane? How could you let her kill herself?’"
Parker’s frightening experience, following months of inconsistent performance and disciplinary problems, might have been accepted as an understandable reason for her resignation the next day. But she was a high-profile woman, and BG John Fenimore, appointed by New York Governor George Pataki to be Adjutant General, feared that her abrupt departure might be seen as evidence of sex discrimination.
The Hobbs (Military) Investigation
Gen. Fenimore appointed a four-member board of inquiry, headed by BG Johnny J. Hobbs, to find out why Maj. Parker had resigned. Gen. Hobbs, who worked in the same office as Gen. Fenimore, conducted a series of closed hearings. Members of the Hobbs board, who had no experience in F-16C general purpose operations, scheduling, or training, failed to interview many of Parker’s instructors, including Maj. Ecker, who witnessed her final flight.
Persons accused of wrongdoing were not permitted to answer specific charges made behind closed doors, and Maj. Parker spoke to the board first and last. It was not surprising, therefore, that the Hobbs report was sympathetic to Parker, and critical of the men from Syracuse.
The primary target was Col. David Hamlin, the highly respected Fighter Wing Commander and a decorated veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm. Hamlin had already been selected for promotion to brigadier general, but he received no warning that his career was about to crash in smoking ruins. The October 20, 1995, release of the military findings—hereafter referred to as the Hobbs report—became a major media event, covered by CNN and other news organizations from press conferences at the Pentagon, the state capital at Albany, and Syracuse.
Following fulsome praise of Gen. Fenimore’s actions from members of the Pentagon’s Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS), eleven more highly-skilled commanders, pilots and instructors were fired, demoted, reassigned to non-flying positions, or transferred to non-existent jobs pending retirement from the Guard. Months of institutional chaos ensued, culminating in a month-long grounding of the entire wing. The havoc seemed to fulfill Maj. Parker’s parting promise: "If you speak of my performance after I leave, I will become so vicious that I will tear this unit apart." (Rose testimony, p. 253)
The New York Inspector General (Civilian) Investigation
The local civilian and military community formed a protest group called "Friends of Col. David Hamlin," and demanded that the governor intervene and provide due process for Col. Hamlin, Vice Commander Col. Tom Webster, and others in the fighter wing who had been punished. In January of 1996, Governor Pataki ordered a second investigation by the New York Inspector General. The NY IG, a civilian named Rosslyn R. Mauskopf, spent 18 months gathering information from aviators and other observers who were not interviewed by the Hobbs board.
Inspector General Mauskopf released her findings in a 216-page report, titled "Mismanagement and Missed Opportunities" hereafter referred to as the Mauskopf report. The December 23, 1997, release date minimized media attention, and the benign-sounding title distracted attention from sensational information within. Unlike the Hobbs report, the civilian Mauskopf review was more fair in exposing what the wing did to help the women succeed, and more thorough in exposing what happened when Col. Hamlin was not supported in his efforts to maintain good order and military discipline.
Although the text of the Mauskopf report provided abundant evidence of poor judgment and a failure of leadership by Adjutant General Fenimore, he was not held personally accountable for the fiasco at Syracuse. Mauskopf condoned the disproportionately severe punishment of Col. Hamlin and eleven other male aviators, but had little to say about the Air Force’s failure to discipline Parker for disruptive behavior that dissolved morale and good order in the wing.
Mauskopf also missed the mark by allowing her report to be colored by the "golden girl" mystique—the belief that female pilots are too "special" to fail. (See page 6) Several times, Mauskopf suggested that Parker’s "historic opportunity" to become the first woman combat pilot was so important, even her unprofessional behavior and performance deficiencies should have been accommodated, no matter what. This expectation betrayed a profound misunderstanding of the purpose of combat aviation training, and was a disservice to other female aviators who do not demand special treatment in the name of equality.
Starting Off on the Wrong Foot
Shortly after then-Defense Secretary Les Aspin opened combat aviation to women in 1993, MG Michael Hall, then-New York Adjutant General, was determined to train the first female combat pilot in the Air National Guard. Available billets had been reduced by downsizing, but Hall circumvented the problem by "attaching" Maj. Parker to the 174th Fighter Wing at Syracuse.
Hall’s imposition of Maj. Parker on the 174th for training purposes was bound to be controversial, because she had already been interviewed and rejected by the fighter wing. The commanders of community-based, state-controlled National Guard units normally have a great deal of autonomy in hiring new pilots. Two other women had already been offered positions with the 174th, and one of them, Capt. Sue Hart-Lilly, joined the wing and experienced few problems.
Parker had been a test pilot, but her primary flight experience was with transport aircraft such as the C-141 and KC-135. Pilots with "heavy" aircraft skills are more likely to have problems transitioning to the high-performance F-16 fighter. Acceptance of Maj. Parker was made even more difficult when she flaunted her unusually friendly relationship with Adjutant General Hall, who had known Parker since her days at test pilot school in 1989. According to the NY IG report, Parker had traveled with and attended overnight Air Force events with Gen. Hall, and frequently called him "Mike" in the presence of other subordinates.
Hall should have anticipated the squadron’s negative reaction to his unilateral assignment decision and his personal familiarity with Parker, but his judgment was undermined by other considerations. Operations Group Commander Col. Robert Rose suspected that Hall’s personal interest focused on Parker not just as a woman, but as a political asset whose presence at Syracuse might deter inclusion of the 174th in the next round of budget cuts or base closures. Col. Hamlin told investigators, "...when Aspin...opened the door...there were three services racing to be the first, plus one general who had his own ego to handle and wanted to be the one that could put up the first. And I think that’s the wrong way to a put a woman in a fighter seat."
Maj. Parker was seriously disadvantaged by her status as a perceived outsider. That virulent problem might have been overcome, however, if she had not conveyed an impression of self-absorption and unbridled ambition. Parker alienated her colleagues by constantly talking about her own history, her political connections, frequent media appearances, and a celebrity status rivaling that of fellow "golden girl" Lt. Kelly Flinn. Parker had received a "Groundbreaker" award from Hillary Rodham Clinton, appeared with Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall and Chief of Staff Gen. Ronald Fogleman, and was photographed for a magazine profile arrayed in a glamorous gown with a bomber jacket slung over her shoulder. Maj. Maureen Murphy commented, "One thing was clear...In her value system, the l74th existed to serve her, and being an F-16 pilot was simply a vehicle to getting somewhere else—as soon as she determined where she wanted to go."
She talked constantly about opportunities she expected to pursue after her stint in Syracuse—such as a California fighter squadron, law school, an astronaut position with NASA, or a White House fellowship. Maj. Scott Poppleton, who observed that her monologues sometimes occurred in the presence of fellow pilots who were unemployed and facing financial hardship, called it "a lack of situational awareness as far as people skills."
As gender integration began in earnest, the formerly all-male fighter wing was trying to define appropriate behavior in the presence of the opposite sex. Jackie Parker complicated that process, by carrying on as if rules of decorum simply didn’t apply to her. As stated by the NY IG, "Parker engaged in a series of crude and unprofessional acts toward some of the male pilots that sent mixed messages about the bounds of appropriate conduct. In doing so, Parker herself seemed to embrace the very culture that [Col.] Hamlin was struggling to change. This conduct contributed to creating an environment that was unsupportive and posed significant obstacles to Parker’s successful integration in the unit."
It wasn’t helpful for Parker to constantly use crude language, wear revealing clothing, or carry a business card displaying the call sign "Mankiller," which was later changed to "Yackie." Nor did she gain respect by invading the men’s restrooms and showers while fellow officers were using them, or by touching and brushing up against certain men in ways that she admitted drove them "nuts." Her favorite target was Capt. Anthony Zaccarro, who eventually filed an unsuccessful suit against her for sexual harassment.
If made into a film, certain passages of the civilian IG report describing Parker’s sexually provocative behavior would have to be rated "R." Parker’s bawdy stunts drew notoriety and ready-room guffaws, but not respect. The men said they didn’t dare to report such incidents to Col. Hamlin and others in the chain of command, for fear of retaliation from Parker’s high-ranking allies in Albany. As Lt. Col. DuFour put it, "She was so powerful in her own little way, and I knew that I had no [political] power. It was a lose-lose situation with Parker."
What Love Had to Do With It
The NY IG presented abundant evidence that "The Rose/Parker relationship proved to be one of the most significant factors in events during Parker’s tenure at Syracuse. It infected Parker’s training environment... distracted the unit from its primary mission, [and] served as the final straw that destroyed Parker’s already tenuous standing in the unit."
This conclusion was strikingly different from that reached by the Hobbs board, which accepted the testimony of Rose and Parker that their friendship was "totally platonic." Awareness of the relationship began when Robert Rose, a married man, confided to friends that his intentions regarding Parker were less than honorable. As the relationship progressed, fellow pilots overheard personal conversations between the two on aircraft radio, and were aware that Rose spent time rock climbing with Parker, visiting her apartment near a lake, and enjoying sailing jaunts and wine on the beach.
Contrary to his own prior testimony before the military board, Col. Rose signed a sworn affidavit on January 16, 1996, confessing to sexual involvement with Parker. The document mentioned details including, in one instance, an overnight stay but not sexual intercourse. The admitted fraternization was more than a personal matter because Rose was an instructor and her training supervisor.
For some time, fighter wing members had observed that the couple’s violation of rules forbidding inappropriate senior/subordinate relationships had led directly to favoritism. Col. Rose was known to give unusually high marks to Parker on routine training flights. He also raised eyebrows by questioning instructor Jeffrey Ecker’s evaluation of a close-air-support mission, during which Parker experienced serious problems. Five times, she dropped 25-pound practice bombs up to a mile and a half away from the intended targets. The incident reinforced the impression that Parker was prone to going over the heads of her peers, and her relationship with Rose was as "special" as her training program.
Pranks Rattle Rose and Parker
The clearly inappropriate romance created a feeling of powerlessness and resentment among her colleagues, who resorted to practical jokes and pranks to express their disapproval. One involved a fake journalist, who caused a panic by calling Rose to inquire about his relationship with the major. Parker also overheard a disparaging limerick about herself on her aircraft radio, and received the squadron’s monthly sardonic "Toilet Bowl Award," a plastic seat with her photo mounted inside.
Col. Rose was razzed with the wing’s annual "Most Disgusting Duke" award, presented to him for "Jackie sailing, Jackie climbing, Jackie this, Jackie that." Rose accepted the award graciously but privately commented that it was "pretty rotten." Outlandish jokes and sophomoric ribbing such as this were common in the wing prior to Parker’s arrival, but in her case they served to escalate tension, rather than dissipating it.
The training process was prolonged by Maj. Parker’s frequent absences due to illness or public appearances, which caused her to miss key training events. Instead of the required 12 flights, performance problems made it necessary for Parker to fly 23 missions, extending into the fall. Instead of scheduling a check ride to complete the syllabus in September of 1994, operations leaders elected to suspend her training in preparation for the unit’s Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI), scheduled for October.
The NY IG criticized this decision, made primarily because Parker was not a regular member of the unit. Under ground rules set by the 9th Air Force readiness inspection team, she would not count as a fighter wing asset eligible for the ORI. In Mauskopf’s view, it was"selfish" of the unit not to see Maj. Parker’s success as a crucial part of the unit’s overall policy goals; i.e., gender integration.
After a two-month suspension of her training, which eroded her skills, Parker had to repeat the basic course. She did not achieve qualification as a mission-ready F-16 pilot until February 1995. She flew a total of 60 flights over a period of almost a year—three times more than the minimum 20-flight syllabus that most pilots complete in a few months. Instructors put the primary blame on Parker’s limited ability in flying the jet.
In particular, they expressed concern about her ability to counter the effects of G-force, which can cause a pilot to lose consciousness. They also worried about inconsistency in her flight performance, particularly in basic fighter and air combat maneuvers, and air to ground exercises. These deficiencies had been noted during her previous assignments at test pilot school and the F-16 Replacement Training Unit (RTU).
The NY IG report criticized the fighter wing for subjective, inconsistent grading procedures, and possible bias on the part of instructors who simply didn’t like her. Bias in favor of Parker didn’t count. MG Hall insisted that he wanted Parker to be trained just like everyone else, but Col. Hamlin testified that "...the direction from Hall was to ‘make it happen,’ which he understood to mean that Parker was not to fail."
The Going Gets Tough
The struggling aviator’s personal and performance problems began to intersect shortly after a large-scale "Air Warrior" exercise at Nellis AFB in March of 1995. Parker and Rose continued to socialize openly, while denying that anything was "going on." That forced Col. Hamlin to remove Rose as Operations Group Commander, effective May 1, 1995, and replace him with Lt. Col. Ray DuFour.
Even though the punishment was aimed at Rose, Parker felt she had been deprived of her mentor and only friend, and the Hobbs report criticized Col. Hamlin for not being sensitive to her feelings of non-acceptance by the group. Unit members resented her role in the demise of Rose’s career, and the consequent alienation exacerbated her flight performance problems.
The walls started to close in when BG Michael Hall retired at about the time she was facing the toughest phase of her training. DuFour testified, "You could see that she was starting to go downhill as far as what her future was going to bring. I think for the first time Jackie Parker started to realize she was not going to be able to either fake her way through something, or be good enough to get through something....it’s a single seat airplane."
Despite considerable evidence that Col. Hamlin and the 174th did make diligent, good faith efforts to assimilate women, the report concluded that failure to guarantee Parker’s success was "fundamentally unfair" and a "disgrace." The criticism implied that the wing should have tolerated and accommodated undisciplined behavior and poor performance, for the sake of an "historic opportunity" that could have cost lives.
The civilian report did not question or recommend revocation of punishment for errors made by each of the twelve men of Syracuse, even though most of the penalties were disproportionately severe.
Col. Hamlin was chastised for counseling Rose and Parker about their relationship, and eventually depriving Parker of her friend by breaking it up. Never mind that Col. Hamlin not only had the right to intervene, it was his duty to do so. An Air Force Instruction regarding personal discipline, which also applies to the Reserve and Air National Guard, directed commanders to deal with inappropriate senior/subordinate relationships by means of "...counseling, (an important first step), reprimanding, removing, demoting, or processing people for administrative separation." (AFI 36-2909)
The principle behind the Air Force directive was lost on members of the Hobbs board, whose conclusions were maddeningly skewed by belief in testimony from Parker and Rose that their relationship was "totally platonic." As noted in the Mauskopf report, months of turmoil resulted because "NYANG leaders, including [Adjutant General] Fenimore, were aware of and disregarded the true facts concerning the [Rose/Parker] relationship, and allowed the [Hobbs] board’s flawed conclusions to become public and drive the personnel transfers at the 174th."
The Syracuse twelve were demoted, transferred elsewhere, forced to resign, or to accept non-flying positions which, in some cases, proved to be non-existent. And in a cynical move that denied due process, Guard officials labeled the reassignments "career broadening," so the pilots could not challenge their groundings before an Aviation Examination Board. The bureaucratic roadblock served to derail additional testimony and investigations that might have embarrassed Air Force and Guard leaders, but it was a clear abuse of power and a tremendous waste of human resources. It costs at least $1.5 million dollars to train each F-16 pilot, and escalating pilot shortages are causing mounting concern.
One pilot was punished for "smiling" and rolling his eyes when told by a state Guard official that the 174th Fighter Wing should have accepted a lower readiness inspection rating for the sake of Maj. Parker’s career. Others were threatened with psychiatric evaluation or accused of sex discrimination—charges that could end their careers with the airlines. In view of the Hobbs board’s infuriatingly misguided conclusions and punitive recommendations, it’s a wonder that all the men from Syracuse didn’t lose their minds due to sheer frustration.
The Hobbs board also second-guessed the instructors’ decisions regarding safety. As Ray DuFour wrote in an April 13, 1997, letter to the NY IG, when an F-16 trainee begins "falling behind the airplane" and performance does not improve, resignation from the program is a difficult but respected, life-saving decision. He added that commanders must be free to deal with such situations "...without fear of charges. It is a safety of flight issue; people can and will die."
The Wall Street Journal published an editorial on May 22, 1997, which drew obvious comparisons between Maj. Parker’s behavior and the widely publicized transgressions of Lt. Kelly Flinn. Adjutant General Fenimore responded with a letter to the editor, which continued to chastise the men of Syracuse. Lt. Col. John Whiteside countered in a subsequent letter that objections to flawed investigations should not be considered violations of good order and discipline.
Release of the New York Inspector General’s report was greeted with silence by state authorities, including Governor George Pataki. Gen. Fenimore was not held accountable for his mistakes in judgment and leadership, and BG Johnny Hobbs, whose military board of inquiry produced a thoroughly botched report, was awarded a second star and currently serves in the Pentagon.
Aside from administrative punishment of Col. Rose and a mild reprimand for Maj. Parker, virtually nothing was said or done by Air Force or National Guard officials to discourage similar fiascoes in the future. Maj. Parker, who remains in the Air National Guard assigned to another state, refused to testify and was not required to participate in the NY IG investigation. She has avoided public comment since the report was released, but according to Paul Richter of the Los Angeles Times, her attorney Susan Barnes "denied Parker had an improper relationship with Rose...claimed Parker had to fend off Rose’s advances, and that Rose changed his story about the relationship because of strong pressure from the males who were his friends for years." (January 17, 1998)
The "Boys from Syracuse" have since abandoned their unit’s historic name. Although the civilian report did provide vindication by bringing out more of the truth, aviators who hoped that the NY IG report would be critical of double standards in training and disciplinary matters were disappointed. Maj. Parker was not punished for behavior that would have ended any man’s career, which perpetuated the "golden girl" mystique.
Despite a huge body of evidence presented in her own report, explaining how but not why Parker blew a tremendous opportunity, IG Rosslyn Mauskopf offered this wistful speculation: "We will never know whether Parker had ‘the right stuff’ to fly one of the most demanding combat missions in the military." Many accomplished men and women have fulfilled their dreams in the Air Force, but all of them faced obstacles that had to be overcome. In the real world of combat aviation, success is difficult to achieve, and there are no guarantees.