-- Two members of the Air National Guard unit that
President George W. Bush allegedly served with
as a young Guard flyer in 1972 had been told to
expect him and were on the lookout for him. He
never showed, however; of that both Bob Mintz
and Paul Bishop are certain.
question of Bush's presence in 1972 at Dannelly
Air National Guard base in Montgomery, Alabama
-- or the lack of it -- has become an issue in the
2004 presidential campaign.
Memphian Mintz, now 62: "I remember that I heard
someone was coming to drill with us from Texas.
And it was implied that it was somebody with political
influence. I was a young bachelor then. I was
looking for somebody to prowl around with." But,
says Mintz, that "somebody" -- better known to
the world now as the president of the United States
-- never showed up at Dannelly in 1972. Nor in
1973, nor at any time that Mintz, a FedEx pilot
now and an Eastern Airlines pilot then, when he
was a reserve first lieutenant at Dannelly, can
I was looking for him," repeated Mintz, who said
that he assumed that Bush "changed his mind and
went somewhere else" to do his substitute drill.
It was not "somewhere else," however, but the
187th Air National Guard Tactical squadron at
Dannelly to which the young Texas flyer had requested
transfer from his regular Texas unit -- the reason
being Bush's wish to work in Alabama on the ultimately
unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign of family friend
Winton "Red" Blount.
is the 187th, Mintz's unit, which was cited, during
the 2000 presidential campaign, as the place where
Bush completed his military obligation. And it
is the 187th that the White House continues to
contend that Bush belonged to -- as recently as
this week, when presidential spokesman Scott McClellan
released payroll records and, later, evidence
suggesting that Bush's dental records might be
on file at Dannelly.
no way we wouldn't have noticed a strange rooster
in the henhouse, especially since we were looking
for him," insists Mintz, who has pored over documents
relating to the matter now making their way around
the Internet. One of these is a piece of correspondence
addressed to the 187th's commanding officer, then
Lt. Col. William Turnipseed, concerning Bush's
remembers a good deal of base scuttlebutt at the
time about the letter, which clearly identifies
Bush as the transferring party. "It couldn't be
anybody else. No one ever did that again, as far
as I know." In any case, he is certain that nobody
else in that time frame, 1972-73, requested such
a transfer into Dannelly.
who at one time was a registered Republican and
in recent years has cast votes in presidential
elections for independent Ross Perot and Democrat
Al Gore, confesses to "a negative reaction" to
what he sees as out-and-out dissembling on President
Bush's part. "You don't do that as an officer,
you don't do that as a pilot, you don't do it
as an important person, and you don't do it as
a citizen. This guy's got a lot of nerve."
some accounts reckon the total personnel component
of the 187th as consisting of several hundred,
the actual flying squadron -- that to which Bush
was reassigned -- numbered only "25 to 30 pilots,"
Mintz said. "There's no doubt. I would have heard
of him, seen him, whatever." Even if Bush, who
was trained on a slightly different aircraft than
the F4 Phantom jets flown by the squadron, opted
not to fly with the unit, he would have had to
encounter the rest of the flying personnel at
some point, in non-flying formations or drills.
"And if he did any flying at all, on whatever
kind of craft, that would have involved a great
number of supportive personnel. It takes a lot
of people to get a plane into the air. But nobody
I can think of remembers him.
talked to one of my buddies the other day and
asked if he could remember Bush at drill at any
time, and he said, ŚNaw, ol' George wasn't there.
And he wasn't at the Pit, either.'"
"Pit" was The Snake Pit, a nearby bistro where
the squadron's pilots would gather for frequent
after-hours revelry. And the buddy was Bishop,
then a lieutenant at Dannelly and now a pilot
for Kalitta, a charter airline that in recent
months has been flying war materiel into the Iraq
Theater of Operations.
never saw hide nor hair of Mr. Bush," confirms
Bishop, who now lives in Goldsboro, N.C., is a
veteran of Gulf War I and, as a Kalitta pilot,
has himself flown frequent supply missions into
military facilities at Kuwait. "In fact," he quips,
mindful of the current political frame of reference,
"I saw more of Al Sharpton at the base than I
did of George W. Bush."
voted for Bush in 2000 and believes that the Iraq
war has served some useful purposes -- citing,
as the White House does, disarmament actions since
pursued by Libyan president Moammar Khadaffi --
but he is disgruntled both about aspects of the
war and about what he sees as Bush's lack of truthfulness
about his military record.
think a commander-in-chief who sends his men off
to war ought to be a veteran who has seen the
sting of battle," Bishop says. "In Iraq: we have
a bunch of great soldiers, but they are not policemen.
I don't think he [the president] was well advised;
right now it's costing us an American life a day.
I'm not a peacenik, but what really bothers me
is that of the 500 or so that we've lost almost
80 of them were reservists. We've got an over-extended
Guard and reserve."
of the problem, Bishop thinks, is a disconnect
resulting from the president's own inexperience
with combat operations. And he is well beyond
annoyed at the White House's persistent claims
that Bush did indeed serve time at Dannelly. Bishop
didn't pay much attention to the claim when candidate
Bush first offered it in 2000. But he did after
the second Iraq war started and the issue came
front and center.
bothered me that he wouldn't 'fess up and say,
Okay, guys, I cut out when the rest of you did
your time. He shouldn't have tried to dance around
the subject. I take great exception to that. I
spent 39 years defending my country."
his old comrade Mintz, Bishop, now 65, was a pilot
for Eastern Airlines during their reserve service
in 1972 at Dannelly. Mintz then lived in Montgomery;
Bishop commuted from Atlanta, a two-hour drive
away. Mintz and Bishop retired from the Guard
with the ranks of lieutenant colonel and colonel,
especially, is bitter about the fate of Eastern,
which went bankrupt during the administration
of President George H.W. Bush, the current incumbent's
father. "I watched my company dissolve under his
policies." Both Bushes were "children of privilege,"
unlike himself and Mintz.
fathers were poor dirt farmers. We would not have
been given the same considerations he and his
father were," says Bishop, who maintains that,
just as the junior Bush used family and political
influence to jump himself ahead of 500 other flight
training applicants, the senior Bush "apparently"
did, too, when he became a naval aviator during
World War Two. "I applaud him for volunteering,
but he should have waited his turn like everybody
says Bishop, "At least I can give him credit for
serving his country." That is more, he suggested,
than can be granted the younger Bush.
he consider voting for the president's reelection?
"Naw, this goes to an integrity issue. I like
either [John] Kerry or [John] Edwards better."
And who would Mintz be voting for? "Not for any
Texas politicians," was the Memphian's sardonic
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