23 July 2011

731st Reunion - demo videos of C-123K at DM Boneyard

They had to borrow a bird from Dickie-Goober which is why there's no cammmo paint. Presented for your amusement...the 731st reunion shot from 1982!
Heartbreaker, ain't it? Part of the demo derby at Davis-Monthan, smashing up the last of the C-123s, Fall 2010 Click for Video download

"Air Truck"? Like that better than "Dumpster," Andy?

On a more formal note, on Friday a complaint was filed with HQ USAF Public Affairs regarding the twisted wording used for the final obituary of the C-123K, prepared as a press release at the 75 Air Base Wing. Although literally decades of hand-wringing oner the dioxin contamination had led to the unique method of smelting to dispose of the fleet, 75ABW simply mentioned that the "herbicide" spray aircraft, being from the "Vietnam era", "were no longer flown" and thus being demolished. True enough, but a complete mistruth, evasion of the facts of the matter and a deception. Read more....

FORMAL Public Affairs COMPLAINT21 Jun 2011
Air Force Public Affairs
The Pentagon
Washington, DC

Dear Sir or Madam,
In April 2010 the 75th ABW, Hill AFB, Utah prepared in advance a press release describing the destruction of the remaining C-123K/UC-123K aircraft at the Davis-Monthan AFB.

Throughout the period 2000-2010, intense concern was raised at different agencies, including the Office of Secretary of Defense, the Air Staff, the Air Force Surgeon General, the Air Force Office of Environmental Law, the Deputy Undersecretary of the Army, HQ Air Force Material Command and more. The concern: dioxin contamination left on the aircraft from their Vietnam War service as Agent Orange spray aircraft in Operation Ranch Hand.

1993 seems to be the first time when tests were ordered on Patches, the Air Force Museum’s famous C-123, was tested before positioning inside the museum. It tested positive for dioxin…in the words of the Air Force test it was “heavily contaminated”.
More tests and correspondence abound during the period 1994-2000 with the only concerns expressed being the disposal of the aircraft, safety of personnel at the Boneyard, whether Walt Disney films should be told that two of the C-123s they purchased for movie production were contaminated, whether foreign governments should be informed that the aircraft transferred to them were contaminated, and similar correspondence.

In 1996 the Air Force Office of Environmental Law recommended the contamination be “kept within official channels”, a recommendation endorsed by the writer’s commander, the Director of the Office of Environmental Law.

In 2000 the Air Force joined with the General Services Administration in a court action to stop the contracted sale of some contaminated C123s. The federal judge took their evidence of the aircraft being “heavily contaminated, extremely dangerous, extremely hazardous, extremely contaminated” and other descriptions, and ordered the sale terminated.

In 2009 the AMARG/AFMC moved towards disposal of the remaining 21 aircraft, but they couldn’t be buried as they were too toxic for a landfill. The recommendation of the Office of Secretary of Defense was to stop testing the aircraft immediately for toxicity…two of four had tested positive and his suggestion was that that result could be taken two ways.that “only two of the 21 aircraft were toxic”, or that “50% or more of the remaining aircraft were toxic.” As the testing was costly,  base officials, acting on authority from Office of Secretary of Defense, opted to shred the entire fleet of C-123s, having learned that shredded metal does not fall under EPA guidelines as did the aircraft…and there was a threatened $3,000,000,000 fine.

And there were the comments by Colonel Schneider at DM, who told the 75th ABW "he is concerned with the potential dissemination of information"), and museums which wanted them, and private buyers who wanted them so desperately they unsuccessfully sued in federal court to try to force a sale.
OSD also recommended that the public affairs at Hill and Davis-Monthan prepare for media inquiries. He mentioned an article from Orion Magazine, and discussed the worry that a media “storm” that might develop could inform Air Force Reservists who flew the airplanes between 1972-1982 that their dioxin-related illnesses might be brought to the VA for treatment. Various drafts of a press release were offered, and the OSD consultant, along with other officials “corrected” the drafts by eliminating words such as “Agent Orange”, “dioxin”,  “contamination” and replacing them with words less likely to alarm the public…Agent Orange and dioxin and contamination were replaced with “herbicide” and “aged Vietnam-era airplanes no longer flown.” The last part of the statements disregards the other Air Force memos about agencies desperate to purchase the valuable engines and propellers 

In conclusion, a press release was crafted by the PA shop at the 75th Air Base Wing. It was not distributed, but held in case of media inquiry. This was a further element of the effort to minimize public awareness of the true story of the event.

No lies were told. Mistruths were constructed, however, to build a story which really had nothing to do with the real news of the event…dioxin contaminated aircraft. Nobody at the PA shop inquired of the managers of the event about the Air Force Reserve aircrews which had been exposed to dioxin on their airplanes for a full decade. Instead, the public affairs officers bent without objection, indeed, apparently with eager willingness, to construct a press release to deceive the media and the public, as well as the Air Force Reservists beginning to wonder why they have cancer, heart disease, acute peripheral neuropathy, ALS, and other dioxin-related illnesses.

While not part of the public affairs activity at either base, I note a possibly inappropriate use of a business title implying official actions within and by the Office of Secretary of Defense. Dr. Alvin Young was cited in several documents from HQ AFMC and the 75th Air Base Wing as Agent Orange “Senior Consultant to the Office of Secretary of Defense.” 

Further, his attitudes and reactions to Reserve Component aircrews are a specific concern, as in his position paper regarding the need for speedy destruction of the dioxin-contaminated aircraft, the consultant mentions the media “storm” which might attend the operation and cause aircrews and maintenance workers with dioxin-related illnesses to seek care at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Concerned with the visibility of this event, which he frequently writes must be low key (and even congratulates base officials on concluding the operation with minimal public attention). There has been an obvious, skillful twisting of words to hide the actual event…destruction of dioxin-contaminated aircraft with a potential $3 billion dollar EPA or State of Arizona fine…by presenting a completely misleading press release. There is an ethical standard in preparation of press releases, but it was ignored here.

The OSD consultant, who last week described the dioxin-exposed Air Force Reserve aircrews as “trash haulers, freeloaders looking for a sympathetic Congressman for tax-free dollars” seems an inappropriate person to be editing Air Force press releases especially when he helps direct the misinformation concerning events vital to my health….my friends and I flew those airplanes!

Thanks to various military-oriented editors and reporters, this story has changed quite a bit from what it could have been – the simple “destruction of Agent Orange contaminated aircraft in an environmentally responsible way” to one where the news value is in the early attempts to keep the information in official channels, to one where Air Force public affairs abused the trust of the public and media by misleading them through a poorly-crafted and deceptive press release, and where public affairs at both Hill AFB and Davis-Monthan AFB failed to bring to the attention of leadership their ethical responsibilities, and to alert their leaders as to the negative impact that failing to notify aircrews who’d been exposed to the toxins and the health dangers this press release was designed to conceal from us and our families.
I find this reprehensible.


Wesley T. Carter, Major USAF

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