Wright Patt C-17 flies Indiana rescuers to Puerto Rico after hurricane

Published: Monday, September 25, 2017 @ 11:18 AM

A Wright-Patt C-17 unloads hurricane relief aid Sept. 12, 2017 at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. The Wright-Patt wing has had a busy season since three major hurricanes in the Atlantic

A Wright-Patt Air Force Reserve C-17 jet flew members of the Indiana Task Force 1 recovery team to Puerto Rico on Saturday after the island was hit hard by Hurricane Maria last week, according to a wing spokeswoman.

It marked the second time a C-17 from the Miami Valley base transported a state-based rescue and recovery team to the Caribbean island which has endured the winds and rain of two hurricanes within weeks.

Earlier this month, a C-17 picked up members of New York Task Force 1 in Georgia and transported the team to San Juan, P.R., after powerful Hurricane Irma churned through the Atlantic Ocean, brushing near the island.

RELATED: Wright-Patt C-17 flies N.Y. rescue team to Puerto Rico after hurricane

With an active hurricane season under way, the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson was on standby this week, according to Lt. Col. Cynthia Harris, a wing spokeswoman.

“Our crew is on alert awaiting other missions,” she said Monday. The unit has nine Globemaster III jets which are on ongoing routine assignments around the world, she said.

RELATED: Wright-Patt C-17s haul hundreds of tons of aid to hurricane survivors

The Indiana unit arrived at Wright-Patterson last week before the flight headed to Dover Air Force Base, Del., where members of Maryland Task Force 1 joined the team, and then headed to Puerto Rico, according to the Indiana unit’s Facebook page.

RELATED: Reporter spends 12 hours with Wright-Patt C-17 trip on hurricane relief flight. Here’s what he witnessed

The Wright-Patt airlift wing has flown hundreds of responders and tons of hurricane relief aid to Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico the past month since a series of record-setting hurricanes struck the U.S. Gulf Coast and the Caribbean causing dozens of deaths and unleashing widespread destruction in its wake.

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Dayton not included in AF request to reimburse areas for tainted water

Published: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 4:43 PM

            Water well field at Huffman Dam is operated by the City of Dayton. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
            Ty Greenlees
Water well field at Huffman Dam is operated by the City of Dayton. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Dayton isn’t included in an Air Force request to reimburse three communities for out of pocket costs caused by groundwater contamination that may have been caused by a firefighting foam contaminant, the service branch revealed on Friday.

The Air Force is asking congressional defense committees for money to reimburse communities near three Air National Guard bases. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is not part of the request.

Dayton had asked the Air Force last month for nearly $1 million in reimbursement costs for environmental studies prompted by concerns of tainted water migrating off the base.

RELATED: Dayton demands Wright-Patt act on groundwater concerns

In an interview this week, Undersecretary of the Air Force Matthew P. Donovan told this news outlet the service branch had asked congressional committees for funds in a future defense authorization bill to reimburse communities for costs to deal with contaminants found in firefighting foam.

“We’ll take each base and each situation as a standalone,” he said in the interview. “We don’t think that there’s a one size (fits) all that’s going to be able to do this because different communities have different concerns and, of course, different situations.”

RELATED: Air Force to ask Congress to reimburse communities for water contamination

An Air Force spokeswoman clarified the statement Friday, saying the request would apply only to specific Air National Guard bases. The Air Force did not specify where those bases are.

Talks between the Air Force and the areas near the bases were halted when the Department of Defense launched a review to determine if those communities would qualify for reimbursement under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program, according to Air Force spokeswoman Laura McAndrews.

RELATED: Wright-Patt responds to Dayton demands to act more quickly on groundwater

The Air Force has cited a federal law — known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act — that the service branch says does not give it legal authority to retroactively reimburse communities paying to remedy contamination.

In cases where data shows the Air Force caused or added to contamination problems, state or local communities can seek reimbursement agreements under the Defense Environmental Restoration Program, the Air Force says.

Dayton has sought reimbursement to study, track and test tainted groundwater it believes could migrate off Wright-Patterson and threaten the nearby Huffman Dam well field along the Mad River. The city shut down seven production drinking water wells at the site last April as a precaution. It says monitoring wells on the property have detected the contaminant, but at levels below the U.S. EPA health advisory threshold.

State, city and base officials say Dayton’s water remains safe to drink and the contaminant has not been detected in the final product sent to consumers.

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Wright-Patterson officials have outlined a number of actions they’ve taken that they say show they’ve reacted quickly to concerns, from expanding a network of monitoring wells to constructing a $2.7 million water treatment plant to treat base drinking water.

The base plans to expand a network of groundwater monitoring wells this summer.

Dayton faces its own contamination issues at the city’s firefighting training site, and in April 2016 it shut down five drinking water production wells near the Mad River at the Tait’s Hill well field.

RELATED: Wright-Patt treating tainted water in contaminated drinking wells

The U.S. EPA has set a health advisory threat level of 70 parts per trillion for lifetime exposure to perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in drinking water. The substances have commonly been found in everyday products from cookware to food wrappers, but also in the firefighting foam.

The contamination, at certain levels, can cause major health concerns. According to the U.S. EPA, human epidemiology and animal testing studies indicate high-level exposure to the contaminant may lead to testicular and liver cancer; changes in cholesterol; low birth weight in newborns; liver tissue damage; and effects on the immune system and thyroid.

Dayton has about 200 drinking water wells tapped into the Great Miami Buried Valley Aquifer, a 1.5 trillion gallon reservoir that serves about three million people.

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Remembering My Lai: Dayton attorney part of Vietnam history

Published: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 5:00 AM

            Merle Wilberding
Merle Wilberding

Dayton attorney Merle Wilberding was a part of American history he has never forgotten.

Fifty years ago today in Quang Nang Province, a quiet hamlet in Vietnam, American soldiers killed hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese villagers in what became known as the My Lai massacre.

Lt. William L. Calley Jr., a platoon leader with Charlie Company, would be the only soldier convicted at court martial of the premeditated murder of 22 Vietnamese in connection with the massacre, historical accounts show. U.S. soldiers reportedly killed as many as 500 unarmed My Lai villagers, mostly the elderly, women and children.

Wilberding was a 27-year-old Army lawyer arguing before a military appeals court in Falls Church, Va., on Dec. 4, 1972 why Calley’s court martial should stand. A courtroom sketch of Wilberding appeared on network television that day, showing widespread national interest in the case.

“That was a huge scene,” Wilberding, now 74, said Thursday, and who spent more than a year on the case. “There were all kinds of people there and it was an all-day hearing.”

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Decades later, Wilberding’s background as an Army lawyer would be put to use while he represented the local family of Maria Lauterbach, a pregnant Marine murdered in 2007 by a fellow Marine.

“In both cases, the crime was so awful that the military or Army or Department of Defense thought it should serve as a lesson that it shouldn’t happen again,” Wilberding said in a 2013 interview with the Dayton Daily News.

In the case of My Lai, the assault on the village began March 16, 1968.

Soldiers descended on the village with information Viet Cong and North Vietnamese fighters were there, Wilberding said.

“But when the helicopters landed, nobody fired back,” he said, recalling his hours of studying reports and transcripts of what happened.

“They (U.S. soldiers) were primed for a big fight and they started shooting anything that moved and then burning the hutches and eventually they chased out all the people,” he said.

Villagers were huddled on a trail and in an irrigation ditch where soldiers received orders to kill them, Wilberding said.

A handful of soldiers defied orders and refused to shoot, he said.

“My conclusion was, and still is, their common sense told them this was wrong,” Wilberding said. “You don’t shoot unarmed men, women and children who are huddled together in a ditch and to me they are the heroes in it. To me, that’s the lesson.”

The massacre didn’t emerge publicly until more than a year later when a soldier wrote to President Richard Nixon and members of Congress about the massacre and journalists broke the story.

Calley had many supporters who believed neither he nor other soldiers should face prosecution, Wilberding said.

Calley’s court martial conviction was upheld by the Army Court of Military Review in 1973 and the U.S. Court of Military Appeals in 1974.

Sentenced to life in prison, the soldier’s sentence was eventually reduced to 10 years. He served three years under house arrest before his release.

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In 2009, he spoke publicly about the massacre to a Kiwanis Club in Columbus, Ga.

“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai,” Calley said, according to an account of the meeting reported by the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. “I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.”

He said his mistake had been following orders, which was his defense when he was tried.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Memphis Belle towed into Air Force museum for first time

Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2018 @ 4:26 PM
Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2018 @ 6:34 PM

WATCH: Memphis Belle rolls into Air Force Museum following restoration

UPDATE @ 6:35 p.m.: The historic bomber has been successfully moved to its new home inside the Word War II gallery.


The World War II B-17 bomber Memphis Belle, which arrived in pieces and sat for years in a restoration hangar at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, will be moved Wednesday evening to its display location.

The iconic bomber will be unveiled in May next to a new strategic bombing exhibit inside the World War II gallery.

PHOTOS: Check out a photo gallery of the Memphis Belle

A curator said the four-engine bomber with the famous nose art of two women will be displayed in a “very dramatic and impressive” way at the world’s largest military aviation museum, but won’t say exactly what that means.

“It will be displayed like we’ve never done before and visitors will be able to get close to the aircraft,” curator Jeff Duford said Wednesday, and the plane will be surrounded by Belle crewmen’s artifacts, from “funny” metal decorations to the radio operator’s boots. 

The Belle will be kept under a tarp until its debut May 17, the 75th anniversary of the plane’s final mission against Nazi Germany to become the first Army Air Forces heavy bomber to fly 25 combat missions over war ravaged Europe and return to the United States.

The airplane grew to fame in two movies and a nationwide whirlwind war bonds tour after reaching the wartime milestone in May 1943.

RELATED: New flight controls added to B-17 Memphis Belle

“The story that’s attached to it, its fame, it’s unique,” Duford said. “There is no other heavy bomber airplane that represents the more than 30,000 (airmen) who died in heavy bombers in the fight against Germany. It is a national treasure.”

Since arriving from Tennessee in 2005, the plane has stood inside an old restoration hangar.

The Memphis Belle will replace the B-17 “Shoo Shoo Baby,” which was to be pulled out Wednesday and will eventually head to the National Air And Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Casey Simmons, a museum aircraft restorer, labored with others for years in painstaking detail to get everything right on the reborn Belle, from remaking unseen aircraft parts to detailed nose art repainted by hand.

RELATED: Memphis Belle earns its wings again 

“Working on the airplane, you get so close to it, it’s kind of just like you’re working on another airplane,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like the Memphis Belle. But it’s when you go home and you start thinking about what you did that it actually hits you that, wow, this is pretty monumental and amazing.”

Two B-17Gs will fly over the Miami Valley and about 130 re-enactors will appear at the museum during the commemoration of the Belle and World War II set for May 17-19.

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New leader named at Wright-Patt agency

Published: Thursday, March 15, 2018 @ 8:00 PM

            Linda Rutledge
Linda Rutledge

A new leader will head programs for cargo and training aircraft at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Lynda T. Rutledge was named program executive officer of the Mobility Directorate, replacing Kevin W. Buckley who stepped down in February to pursue work in the private sector.

RELATED: Wright Patt senior leader of aircraft programs steps down

Rutledge most recently was in charge of the Agile Combat Support Directorate since 2015 where she oversaw a $9 billion budget and 600 programs.

She’s a former deputy director of the Fighters and Bombers Directorate, also at Wright-Patterson.

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The directorates are part of the Air Force Life Cycle Management center headquartered at the Miami Valley base.

She began her Air Force civilian career as a mathematician at the Test and Analysis Directorate at Eglin Air Force Base and is a University of Florida graduate.

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