Community survey: Should Vermont Air National Guard commanders get credit for F-35 flight hours that violate their training?
If you are ready to provide your answer to the survey question, click this link, which takes you to a Google Form. Or read on for information you may find useful to inform your choice.
Vermont Air National Guard training includes these two separate parts:
About half of the 5,486 F-35 training operations at Burlington airport each year are for takeoffs and flights that last about an hour. That means the unit clocks some 2,700 flight-hours a year of F-35 training from the Burlington airport (BTV) runway in the most densely populated cities in Vermont. Valid F-35 flight hours are credited toward what commanders refer to as their F-35 “federal mission.”
Commanders receive periodic training in the “law of war,” which is the military’s term for an array of Department of Defense (DoD) regulations that require them to protect civilians and civilian property from their military operations.
Let’s focus on the law of war training for a moment. DoD Directive 2311.01 does not just require compliance with the law of war during armed conflicts. It also requires compliance “in all other military operations.” Like during training in Vermont.
The DoD Law of War Manual, cited in DoD Directive 2311.01 as “the authoritative statement on the law of war within the DoD,” reinforces the point that law of war principles apply in all military operations, including in peacetime and in all circumstances, like training:
These ‘elementary considerations of humanity’ have been understood to be ‘even more exacting in peace than in war.’ Thus, these legal standards, at a minimum, must be adhered to in all circumstances. (p. 72).
That also means during F-35 training in Vermont.
DoD Directive 2311.01 lists the five law of war principles: military necessity, humanity, distinction, proportionality, and honor.
That is five different ways that commanders are required to take care not to hurt, injure, or kill civilians.
But at a recent Winooski City Council meeting, and in their written responses following the meeting, three Vermont Air National Guard commanders either could not say or refused to say whether there is “a military regulation that requires separation of military operations from populated areas (the military term for this regulation is ‘distinction’).” They also could not or refused to answer whether there is a “military necessity for F-35 takeoffs and landings to take place in a densely populated area.”
Each one of “the law of war’s fundamental principles” is violated by commanders who order the F-35 training in Vermont cities. Here is how each one of the five is violated:
1. The F-35 training in densely populated Vermont cities violates the law of war principle of “Distinction,” which requires sufficient separation of dangerous military operations from populated areas to avoid hurting civilians. Volume II of the Air Force Environmental Impact Statement said that repeated exposure to military aircraft at 114-decibels, about the noise level of the F-35 in Winooski, can cause hearing damage. It also said that such aircraft noise can impair the learning and cognitive development of children. Studies cited by the AARP reported that environmental noise sharply increases the incidence of heart disease and stroke. A Johns-Hopkins study found that hearing loss increases the risk of dementia. The Air Force also provided charts showing a much higher F-35 crash risk than the previously based F-16. And 658 people submitted F-35 Report and Complaint Forms stating that they are hurt or injured by the F-35 training.
2. The F-35 training in Vermont cities violates the principle of “Military necessity:” A city location for training provides no military advantage as compared with locations remote from populated areas. A city location is not any kind of military necessity. The DoD Law of War Manual states, “military necessity must not be conflated with mere convenience.” (p.55).
3. The 115-decibel F-35 was designed for supersonic flight, not for hundreds of routine training flights a month in densely populated areas. Commanders violate the principle of “Unnecessary Suffering,” (also called “Humanity”), by ordering F-35 training in a city location—a manner of using the F-35 for which it was not designed—and where hundreds of Vermonters report pain, injury, distress, and suffering.
4. The F-35 training in Vermont cities violates the principle of “Proportionality.” As the military advantage from training with F-35 jets in a densely populated area is zero, the hurt and injury to hundreds of civilians is way over-the-top disproportionate to the military advantage. Proportionality also requires that commanders take feasible precautions to protect Vermonters. The only feasible precaution that can work to protect civilians, especially when windows are open or when children are playing outdoors, is to conduct training with F-35 jets remote from any populated area.
5. The F-35 training in Vermont cities violates the principle of “Honor:” Nothing dishonors a commander more than deliberately hurting or killing civilians. Volume II of the Air Force EIS describes the civilian injuries the Air Force anticipated. Hundreds of civilians report pain, hearing damage, trauma, and suffering. As if that is not enough, “Honor” also bars military forces from using civilians as human shields. The city location for the F-35 base uses cities full of civilians as human shields for the F-35 because its presence makes the airport a legitimate military target.
The bottom line is that Vermont Air National Guard Commanders violate their law of war training by ordering routine F-35 training in densely populated cities hundreds of times a month where they knowingly hurt and injure civilians.
Should flight-hours of training be counted if Commanders conduct the training in a way that violates the training?
Should Vermont Air National Guard commanders get credit for the flight hours obtained by training with F-35 jets in Vermont cities where, in violation of their training to protect civilians, commanders assault, hurt, and injure Vermonters?
Click this link to provide your answer: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSed_JzOf8fmhw4JPr8KRwlKUdMEvJUHx0ttjVQbMWHd9OlAzw/viewform
Write or call your public servants:
Governor Phil Scott 802-828-3333 Chief of Staff <Jason.Gibbs@vermont.gov>
Vermont National Guard's Complaint Line: 802-660-5379 (Note: the Vermont Guard told a reporter that it received over 1400 noise complaints. But the Guard won’t release what people said).
Add your own report & complaint to the new online F-35 Fall 2021-Winter 2022 Report & Complaint Form: https://tinyurl.com/5d89ckj9
See all the graphs and in-your-own words statements on the just-completed F-35 Spring-Summer 2021 Report & Complaint Form (513 responses): https://tinyurl.com/3svacfvx.
See links to the graphs and in-your-own words statements on all four versions of the F-35 Report & Complaint Form since Spring 2020, with a total of 1670 responses from 658 different people.
Senator Patrick Leahy 800-642-3193 Chief of Staff <email@example.com>
Senator Bernie Sanders 800-339-9834 <Senator@sanders.senate.gov>
Congressman Peter Welch 888-605-7270 Chief of Staff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Burlington City Council <email@example.com>
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott <email@example.com>
S. Burlington City Council Chair Helen Riehle <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Williston Selectboard Chair Terry Macaig <email@example.com>
VT Senate President Becca Balint <firstname.lastname@example.org>
VT House Speaker Jill Krowinski <email@example.com>
Attorney General TJ Donavan <DonovanTJ@gmail.com>
States Attorney Sarah George <Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org>
Vermont’s Federal Prosecutor <email@example.com>
Adjutant General Brig Gen Gregory C Knight <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Major J Scott Detweiler <email@example.com>
Wing Commander Col David Shevchik firstname.lastname@example.org
Vermont National Guard Inspector General Lt. Col. Edward J Soychak <email@example.com>
US Air Force Inspector General Lt. Col. Pamela D. Koppelmann <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall <Frank.Kendall@us.af.mil>