Spectators at the year's remaining airshows featuring the Blue Angels will notice something very different about the Navy's aerial demonstration team.
There will be one less F/A-18 in the formation.
Navy Times reports that two members have been dismissed from the team, due to an alleged "inappropriate relationship." The names of the individuals were not released, but one of them is an aviator.
[A Navy] official said the two have been removed from duties “pending further review” of the matter by Rear Adm. Mark Guadagnini, chief of naval air training. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, since he was discussing a personnel matter.
Marine Capt. Tyson Dunkelberger, Blue Angels spokesman, said the two are “still administratively attached to the squadron but currently not traveling with the team.”
Dunkelberger said, “It was a male and female. Keep in mind there are 133 members on the team.”
For the remainder of the season, the team will be flying five jets during its shows rather than the standard six, the official added.
According to the Blue Angels’ Web site, the team does not maintain a “spare” pilot who could fill in when another member can’t fly.
Navy spokesmen observe that Blue Angels pilots must complete at least 120 training flights before being allowed to fly a public demonstration. With only a month left in the current season, there wouldn't be enough time to train a replacement pilot for the three remaining air shows.
While the demonstration team will have to make do with one less jet--and pilot--the Navy deserves credit for dealing with a serious issue in one of its highest-profile units. The action by the team leader may strike some as a bit harsh, but he realizes that the service can ill-afford a "sex scandal" involving the Blue Angels.
The USN's prompt action stands in stark contrast to that of the Air Force, which continues to "whistle past the graveyard" in the Jill Metzger scandal. Readers will recall that Major Metzger was temporarily retired from active duty last year, only 10 months after he alleged kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan.
Two years later, there isn't a shred of evidence that Metzger was abducted (as she claimed) from a mall in Bishkek, near her temporary duty assignment at Manas Airbase. On the other hand, there is compelling evidence that Major Metzger lied about the kidnapping, claiming that she overpowered her abductors, then ran 30 miles to freedom.
Thanks largely to the doggedness of militarycorruption.com, we know that Metzger lied to investigators, flunked a polygraph and then refused to cooperate with the inquiry. The Air Force flew her out of the country shortly after her return, preventing Kyrgyz authorities from completing their investigation.
Despite obvious contradictions between Metzger's version of events--and evidence accumulated by investigators--the Air Force took no action against her. In July 2007, she was placed on the temporary retired list because of post-traumatic stress disorder--a supposed by-product of her "ordeal" in Kyrgyzstan. Did we mention that Major Metzger has alleged connections to senior officers and her husband is a member of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the organization that probed her alleged kidnapping?
Whatever her condition at retirement, Metzger seems to have made a remarkable recovery over the past year. In recent months, she's completed both the Air Force and Marine Corps marathons (she's a past winner of the female division of the USAF event), and won a shorter race in her hometown in North Carolina.
"She's above the law," said another female runner in the Marine Corps marathon. Militarycorruption.com speculates that Metzger was probably the only participant rated as 100% disabled. The website is urging the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz, to order a new investigation into the Metzger case.
We agree. There are plenty of wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan who are still waiting for their disability determination, and few will receive the 100% rating given to Metzger. Her treatment--and conduct in retirement--is a slap at the men and women who are genuinely disabled, but lacked Metzger's connections to move to the front of the line.