Air Force Times has the latest on Major Jill Metzger, the personnel officer who went missing in Kyrgyzstan last fall, touching off an international incident. As readers of this blog know, Metzger's case--and its ultimate disposition--remain shrouded in mystery. Both the service and the Justice Department are still investigating the incident (Major Metzger claims she was abducted, but Kyrgyz and U.S. authorities have their doubts), and more recently, there have been conflicting reports on her status within the Air Force.
For those keeping score at home, early accounts suggested that Major Metzger would be retired in early July, due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that she suffered while in "captivity." That touched off howls of protest in the military community. Wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan, trying to pick their way through the maze of health care and disability benefits--were incensed that Metzger had apparently moved to the head of the line.
Almost as quickly, the major's status appeared to change again. Within a couple of days, Metzger's mother told the press that her daughter would be taking an 18-month leave of absence from the service, beginning this month. Mrs. Metzger said that the time away would allow the major to spend time with her husband (whom she married before deploying to Kyrgyzstan), and decide if she wants to remain in the Air Force. Not long after that, the story changed again, with Mrs. Metzger reporting that her daughter was going on medical leave.
While all of these options are permissible under military regulations, that awarding of medical leave struck many observers as odd. Personnel with far more serious injuries--including former prisoners of war--received far less leave, and many were confined to treatment facilities during that period. Whatever Major Metzger experienced in Kyrgyzstan, she was able to return to duty at Moody AFB, and worked in the base personnel office until her retirement/leave-of-absence/medical leave kicked in.
And, for what it's worth, Metzger's status has apparently changed again since our last post. The major's father, a retired Air Force Colonel. told the Times that his daughter has been "temporarily medically retired" due to PTSD. That determination was made by a three-member board at the Air Force Personnel Center, which reviewed Metzger's case. Major Metzger will go on "temporarily retired" status after she uses up her annual leave. As we understand it, Metzger will receive at least half her base pay while temporarily retired; she will be reexamined by Air Force doctors in 16-18 months, to determine if she can return to active duty, or will be permanently retired.
Unfortunately, the latest Times' account does nothing to explain Metzger's changing status over the past month or so. As we previously noted, the Major hasn't spoken with the media since her return to the CONUS, and due to Privacy Act restrictions, the Air Force can't comment publicly on her duty status. However, in the interest of clarity (and partial disclosure), someone needs to explain (a) when the medical board met, and (b) when they decided to retire Major Metzger temporarily. Such information--which could be divulged without violating the officer's privacy--would go a long way toward quelling rumors about "sweetheart deals" and a duty status that seemed to change almost daily.
As we've noted previously, the temporary medical retirement also serves at least one legal purpose. Though on the retired list, Major Metzger remains subject to Air Force control, and could be recalled for additional interviews with Air Force and Justice Department investigators. Last fall, she testified before a federal grand jury probing the Kyrgyzstan incident; there's no indication if she will be recalled by that panel, or when the investigations might be completed.