A pilot assigned to Scott Air Force Base’s 375th Airlift Wing is asking to resign his commission and be discharged after being punished for refusing to take the controversial anthrax vaccine.
Capt. Cliff Volpe flew high-ranking military officials and other dignitaries out of Andrews Air Force Base, Md., until he was grounded in October for refusing the vaccine.
In his resignation letter dated Monday, he states he has been subjected “to prolonged and illegal punitive treatment.”
“For almost six months, the Air Force has intentionally mistreated me, punished me without due process or legal authority, and failed to follow its own regulations,” Volpe wrote. “I respectfully request that you put an end to this by allowing me to resign my commission with an honorable discharge.”
In October, Volpe accepted a nonjudicial punishment that included a reprimand and fine of one month’s pay, $3,210.
He said he has since been illegally suspended from flying status for
more than 180 days, had his privacy rights violated when a commander talked
about his case at a public meeting and had a commander threaten him with
additional legal action while refusing to give him time to talk
to his attorney.
“I’ve exhausted my possibilities within my chain of command,” he said Thursday. “I had no choice but to ask to be allowed to resign my commission.”
Lt. Col. Allan Dahncke, spokesman for the 375th Airlift Wing at Scott, said Volpe is the first member of the wing to refuse the shot.
Volpe was given every opportunity to avoid punishment but chose to disobey a lawful order, Dahncke said.
“We’re at this place today because of Capt. Volpe’s actions,” he said. “He knew what was required of him to be a C-21 pilot in the U.S. Air Force, and part of that requirement is to be world-wide deployable.
“And when his time came up to be assigned to a high-threat area that required him to take the anthrax vaccine, he refused.”
Wing leaders and their superiors carefully followed the Uniform Code of Military Justice but Volpe’s allegations of mistreatment will be reviewed by proper authorities, Dahncke said.
Volpe, 27, graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1995 and has been
assigned to the 457th Airlift Squadron at Andrews since completing pilot
training in 1997. The unit is one of seven C-21 Lear jet units under the
command of Scott’s 375th Airlift Wing but stationed at other bases
around the country.
The Pentagon’s mandatory anthrax program has been controversial since it was announced in December 1997.
Military leaders say at least 10 countries have or could have weapons using the deadly livestock disease.
Critics charge that the vaccine has not been proven effective against the aerosol anthrax likely to be used as a weapon and cite hundreds of cases of apparent bad reactions to the vaccine among the more than 400,000 troops vaccinated so far.
At Scott, 825 people have started the 18-month, six-shot series needed for full immunization, with 168 having completed it, Dahncke said.
Of those, four people have reported adverse reactions, with one of them exempted from the program based on medical recommendations, he said.
Also on Thursday, the General Accounting Office told the Senate Armed Service Committee that the military could run out of vaccine by July because of continuing problems at the only plant licensed to make it.
Originally Published, April 14, 2000 Belleville News Democrat, Belleville,
(c) 2000, Belleville News-Democrat, Belleville, Ill.
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