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Bush credited for Guard drills But time frame leaves questions
by Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff
Boston Globe
February 10, 2004

President Bush received credit for attending Air National Guard drills in the fall of 1972 and spring of 1973 -- a period when his commanders have said he did not appear for duty at bases in Montgomery, Ala., and Houston -- according to two new documents obtained by the Globe.

The personnel records, covering Bush's Guard service between May 1972 and May 1973, constitute the first evidence that Bush appeared for any duty during the first 11 months of that 12-month period. Bush is recorded as having served the minimum number of days expected of Guard members in that 12 months of service time.

One of the documents lists nine service periods of 2 to 3 days each and records the points Bush earned toward his service retirement benefit. The other is a summary of his service in the 12 months beginning May 1972, and lists the same number of service points earned. View Bush military document

Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director, said last night that the listing of service dates, which the White House intends to make public today, documents Bush's longstanding assertion that he fulfilled his military obligation.

But the documents seem unlikely to resolve questions about whether Bush shirked his duty during his tour as a fighter-interceptor pilot for the Texas Air Guard during the Vietnam War. That is because some of the dates on the service list fell during a period in the fall of 1972 when Bush was reassigned to a guard unit in Alabama. The commander of the Alabama unit has said Bush did not appear for duty at his assigned unit there.

Bartlett said the Guard drills Bush is listed as attending in January and April 1973 were probably conducted at Bush's home base in Houston. But on May 2, 1973, Bush's two commanders at Ellington Air Force Base wrote that they could not evaluate his performance for the prior 12 months because he had not been there. Two other Bush superiors said in interviews four years ago that they do not believe Bush ever returned to his Houston base from Alabama.

The Globe obtained both of the documents from a political activist who says he acquired them in December 2000 from the Air Reserve Personnel Center in Colorado. The activist, Bob Fertig, is a cofounder of Democrats.com, a website that has no formal affiliation with the Democratic Party.

The document that Bartlett has and plans to release is a short list of retirement points earned by Bush for training days in October and November 1972 and in January, April, and May 1973.

A partial, torn copy of that document was made available to the news media by Bush aides in 2000, when questions about his Guard service were raised. The torn copy listed the number of training days, but showed neither service dates nor Bush's name -- both were in the torn-away portion. But Bush's Social Security number was visible on one copy obtained by the Globe.

No explanation has been offered for how the document was torn or why an undamaged copy was not available in 2000.

The second document, which Bartlett said the White House had not yet obtained, is Bush's personnel record card for the period of May 27, 1972, to May 26, 1973. As is the case with Guard members, Bush, the card shows, was generally given 2 points for each day of weekend training.

But this card, unlike those for the other years of Bush's service, does not itemize Bush's individual day of service; it gives only a total. The personnel record card also indicates that Bush was on flying status, even though he never flew for his unit after April 1972.

Bush, in an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," insisted that he had attended Guard drills during the 12 months beginning May 1972. The president also said that during the 2000 campaign, the Colorado record facility had been "scoured" to ensure that everything had been made public.

And Bush agreed to make public all of his military records. Asked last night whether the White House would authorize the Colorado records facility to make public all of Bush's records, Bartlett said any that are germane would be made public after being reviewed by the White House. On this issue, Bartlett said, the practice has been to release every document.

Bartlett said he could not explain why Fertig's group had access to more documents than the White House.

Fertig called for an independent investigation. Noting that the new documents are contradicted by other public documents, and statements by Bush's Guard superiors, Fertig said the public has a right to know whether Bush received credit for duty he did not perform.

Bush's Guard service began in earnest after he graduated from flight school in November 1969. He then returned to Ellington for six months of training in the F-102 fighter-interceptor, and then from June 1970 until April 1972, he flew frequently.

But the following month, he won permission to move to Alabama for several months to work on the US Senate campaign of Winton Blount, a Republican. In Montgomery, Bush was supposed to do periodic drills with another Guard unit. But its commander has said Bush never appeared. Bush has said he did, but does not recall what duties he performed.

In September 1972, Bush was removed from flight duty for failing to have his annual physical.

According to the two documents, Bush accumulated 41 service points by appearing for duty on 24 days between May 1972 and May 1973. He received 15 "gratuitous" points for being in the military, for a total of 56 points. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Albert. C. Lloyd Jr., a former personnel director for the Texas Air Guard, said in an interview last night that the minimum number of points required for any year was 50, although most Guardsmen logged substantially more.

"The document shows he satisfactorily completed his military obligation for that year," Lloyd said.

Bush's record of days served ran from May to May each year because he entered the Air National Guard in May 1968, just after graduating from Yale.

Other records, which were disclosed four years ago, show that Bush was ordered to appear for a flurry of duty days in May, June, and July 1973 -- orders that Lloyd said in 2000 may have been issued because Bush's commanders realized he had not been fulfilling his requirements. The records obtained yesterday indicate that Bush would not have made his minimum for that year but for seven days of duty in May 1973.

His final duty day was on July 30, 1973, even though he signed a commitment to fly for the unit until November 1974. Bush was granted an "early out" -- not uncommon as the Vietnam War was winding down -- to attend Harvard Business School.

Michael Rezendes and Sacha Pfeiffer of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.


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