An Air Force VIP pilot who refused to take the controversial anthrax vaccine will be allowed to resign with the military's second-best discharge, he learned Friday.
Capt. Clifton P. Volpe, a C-21 pilot at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., had resubmitted his resignation request last month after his first request was rejected on the grounds the Air Force was considering throwing him out.
Friday morning, his commander told him that the Secretary of the Air Force has approved a general discharge under honorable conditions.
"My commander just called and told me," Volpe said. "I start separation processing Tuesday. My actual separation date will be the second of June."
Volpe, 27, is a 1995 graduate of the Air Force Academy. He was ordered to take the shots in October in preparation for missions in the Persian Gulf.
He refused, stating he believed that dozens of people had become sick from taking the shots. He received a reprimand and a $3,200 fine and was grounded.
Volpe's performance reports show that his commanders considered him a "superb," "top-notch" and "first-rate" officer up until the time he refused.
Since then, he claims he has been harassed and mistreated and has filed a complaint with the Air Force's inspector general.
Officials with the 375th Airlift Wing at Scott Air Force Base — the parent unit of the Andrews squadron — have denied Volpe was mistreated.
"The Uniform Code of Military Justice system worked as designed," said Lt. Col. Allan Dahncke, wing spokesman. "Capt. Volpe was treated fairly and he was given the discharge he requested.
"It wasn't the Air Force doing this to him; this was Capt. Volpe doing this to himself."
The Pentagon argues that the vaccine is needed to protect troops against anthrax weapons, believed to be in the hands of at least a dozen potential enemies.
But more than 350 service members have refused the shots since vaccinations began in early 1998. And hundreds more National Guard and Reserve troops have left their units to avoid the vaccine.
Volpe is the second active-duty pilot to receive a general discharge this year for refusing the vaccine. In March, former Maj. Sonnie Bates was released from his C-5 cargo plane unit at Dover Air Force Base, Del., for refusing the shot.
An information sheet prepared by military defense lawyers describes a general discharge as "warranted if your service has been honest and faithful, but significant negative aspects of your conduct or duty performance outweigh the positive aspects of your military record."
A person with a general discharge receives all but a few of the benefits given to those with honorable discharges.
Originally Published, May 27, 2000 Belleville News Democrat, Belleville,
(c) 2000, Belleville News-Democrat, Belleville, Ill.
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