Vermont Air National Guard publishes its F-35 “Road to Combat”
Intended to support commanders, the F-35 “Road to Combat” effectively incriminates them
Commanders disclosed “training to engage ground targets” as one of the F-35 missions of the Vermont Air National Guard in a posting on Friday called “Road to Combat, Part III.” Training by engaging ground targets is also exactly what commanders are doing in Vermont cities: “Engaging” the homes, ears, hearts, and brains of over 6,600 Vermonters. And using them as the “ground targets” of the indiscriminate 115-decibel noise of the F-35 (page BR4-23). And repeating the assault hundreds of times a month for training.
Also among the ground targets “engaged” by the F-35 jets in Vermont’s most densely populated cities are the children and teachers in seven schools and the workers and customers in numerous businesses and workplaces within the US Air Force-identified noise target zone in Burlington, Winooski, South Burlington, and Williston (see the US Air Force’s oval-shaped noise target map of this Vermont area on page BR4-69).
Granted that training a military unit for combat must include training in how to effectively operate military equipment. Yet, as we shall see below, training in weapons operation has been ineffective for US forces in several wars when not accompanied by proper training and strict enforcement of the law of war: The fundamental regulations governing combat. Regulations that require legitimate military commanders to protect civilians in multiple ways during combat operations.
Not one of the 3,100 words in the three parts of “Road to Combat” (see Part I and Part II) even mentions those well-established combat regulations.
The Pentagon goes further than international law, requiring compliance with the rules protecting civilians “in all circumstances,” not just during combat operations. DOD Directive 2311.01 requires US armed forces “to act consistent with the law of war’s fundamental principles and rules” even in military operations outside of armed conflict. Those principles include “military necessity, humanity, distinction, proportionality, and honor.” DoD Directive 2311.01, cites the DoD Law of War Manual, as authoritative, which states that the protections of civilians are “‘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 includes during military training with F-35 jets in Vermont’s densely populated cities.
Commanders refused to answer questions about their military regulations
The monthly series of “Road to Combat” articles was first published and promoted by the Vermont Air National Guard command the month following the September 7, 2021 Winooski City Council meeting, attended by three commanders, at which 30 residents told of their pain, injury, and suffering from the 115-decibel F-35 training in densely populated cities.
At that city council meeting not one of the commanders answered even the most basic questions about their obligations under the military’s own law of war regulations. "Is there a military regulation that requires distinction or separation of military operations from populated areas?" was left unanswered. Nor did a commander answer: “Is there a military regulation that authorizes you to conduct training in a location where you are routinely hurting or injuring civilians?”
Commanders also omitted answering any of these basic questions in their written “official responses,” as documented by the mayor on the last page.
Sherlock Holmes would have found the omissions curious
As in the story of the dog that didn’t bark, the non-responses add up to striking evidence: (1) Commanders failed to respond to the questions about the military regulations at the September 7 Winooski City Council meeting, saying they would include answers in their written submission. (2) Commanders then omitted responding to the questions about military regulations in their written submission. (3) Commanders then failed to answer those questions when reminded by the mayor. (4) Then, when the mayor posted their submission, noting the omission of response to those questions on October 25, commanders still did not respond. (5) Commanders then entirely omitted mention of training in the fundamental regulations governing combat in each of the three parts of the self-congratulatory “Road to Combat” series of articles that they published on October 29, November 19, and December 17.
Yet, Vermont Air National Guard commanders daily knowingly inflict abuse on thousands of civilian families by practicing with F-35 jets in cities in violation of their own regulations.
Commanders training with F-35 jets in a city have no choice but to avoid mention of military regulations
It is indeed impossible to both comply with Department of Defense and Air Force regulations that protect civilians from military operations and also train with 115 decibel F-35 jets in a densely populated area. That fact explains why the regulations governing combat are not mentioned in the “Road to Combat” series and why the questions about the regulations were not answered at the Winooski City Council meeting. But in this case, no answer is an answer: The omissions, taken together, are conclusive: The commanders effectively incriminated themselves.
Tell the governor, who has the constitutional authority to order a halt to the F-35 training in cities
Vermonters have every right to demand that the governor use his constitutional power to take immediate action to require that commanders:
∙ Protect the people of Vermont, and immediately stop assaulting and injuring them with 115-decibel F-35 training flights in densely populated cities.
∙ Defend the state and federal constitutions and enforce their provisions that protect the bodily integrity of Vermonters from state-sponsored violence (see the Complaint to the Inspector General that describes the multiple constitutional provisions violated by F-35 training in cities).
∙ Comply with the rule of law rather than acting in reckless disregard of federal laws, including the UCMJ, the US War Crimes Act, and Vermont’s reckless simple assault, reckless endangerment, and reckless disorderly conduct laws.
∙ Respect town meeting democracy, including the town meeting votes in Burlington and Winooski that called for canceling the F-35 basing and halting the F-35 training flights in populated areas.
∙ Order the Vermont National Guard to focus entirely on the threats facing Vermont, the country, and the world: climate change rapidly approaching or passing tipping points and a growing COVID-19 public health emergency that in less than two years has killed 452 Vermonters, 827,000 Americans, and 5,373,000 worldwide.
∙ Immediately halt all F-35 training activity in Vermont now
Further, demand that the governor announce no more will Vermont allow its armed forces to be trained for abusing civilians in Vermont or anywhere else in illegal, immoral, and unjust wars based on lies.
Tell the legislature and the attorney general
Vermonters have every right to demand that legislative leaders, the attorney general, the states attorney, the federal prosecutor, the inspector general, and the state’s daily news media use their powers to investigate, ask questions, and demand answers, and to hold the governor and the commanders to account for violations of US and Vermont laws and the military’s own regulations.
New York Times front-page story divulges US war crimes targeting civilians
Legislative and attorney general scrutiny of the outlaw F-35 training now being conducted in cities by commanders of the Vermont Air National Guard is especially critical now, in view of the devastating New York Times article published last Sunday, December 12, that gives details of US forces deliberately or recklessly serially murdering civilians in Syria, and how the unit responsible “alarmed officers by sidestepping rules protecting noncombatants.”
The New York Times article describes how even senior CIA officers and an Air Force intelligence officer—representing organizations not widely thought to be staffed by peaceniks—complained “about the disturbing pattern of strikes” targeting civilians. It also said that even members of the group responsible for calling the strikes “at times refused to participate in strikes targeting people who did not seem to be in the fight.”
The New York Times article further states:
CIA personnel were shocked when they repeatedly saw the group strike with little regard for civilians. Officers reported their concerns to the Department of Defense’s Inspector General, and the agency’s leadership discussed the issue with the top officers at the Joint Special Operations Command, one former CIA officer said.
The officer said he never saw evidence that these concerns were taken seriously.
Thus, Department of Defense leaders and its Inspector General made themselves complicit in the war crimes described in the New York Times article by granting impunity for the targeting and killing of civilians, instead of vigorously enforcing the law.
Compliance by Vermont commanders is even more urgent
The flagrant violations of the military’s own law of war regulations by top federal officials in ongoing US wars makes even more urgent action by the states to uphold the law, enforce compliance, and demand federal respect for the rule of law, especially regarding military operations.
Yet, without offering the slightest excuse or explanation, or even facing questions about compliance from legislative leaders or the news media, Vermont Air National Guard commanders daily violate the fundamental principles of the law of war with impunity when they order training with F-35 jets in cities. Instead they deflect by talking of a “federal mission.” But no federal mission requires F-35 training to be conducted in a city.
Training to commit war crimes
During training is an especially critical time for commanders to enforce strict compliance with all military regulations, including those that protect civilians. By contrast, ordering training in a place or in a manner that routinely hurts or injures civilians inherently trains members to violate the law of war rules protecting civilians. Training that routinely hurts or injures civilians is training to commit the kind of crimes described in the New York Times article.
Failure to protect civilians is a way to lose the war
Protecting civilians during combat is not just a matter of good order and discipline, compliance with rules, and doing what is right. The blatant failure to protect civilians from military operations, along with the routine use of torture, had much to do with the complete loss of legitimacy for the US occupation and the total loss of local support for US forces, the rise of ISIS, and the total lack of support for the corrupt puppet government in Afghanistan, as demonstrated by its almost immediate collapse when US forces withdrew in August. Strict compliance and impartial enforcement of every principle of the law of war is essential if further senseless military interventions and military defeats are to be avoided.
Lessons not learned
In the “Road to Combat,” Lt. Col. Rocky McRae, commander of the 134th Fighter Squadron, mentions “lessons learned after the Vietnam War.” However, in Vietnam, US forces blatantly abused Vietnamese civilians with carpet bombing and free fire zones, burned civilians with napalm and white phosphorus, poisoned them with Agent Orange, destroyed villages to save them, and tortured civilians on a mass scale with the Phoenix Program. Such methods gradually built a determined resistance among millions of Vietnamese. They also helped build a massive antiwar movement in America.
In 1967, Martin Luther King added his voice to the antiwar movement, calling the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” Later that year, the resistance to the Vietnam war exploded with a mass demonstration of more than a hundred thousand people at the Lincoln Memorial and the Pentagon.
The campaign to “bring the troops home now” began to attract thousands of American soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines, who took the lead in marches and spoke at rallies. Members of units in Vietnam itself and at bases and on ships in every other region of the world spoke out, organized actions, set up coffee shops, and put out their own newspapers. Those were the most courageous of the men and women in uniform, who earned the respect and admiration of a generation, and their determined leadership and actions eventually forced President Nixon to withdraw all US troops from Vietnam.
From the vicious assaults on working class Vermont cities and neighborhoods with 115-decibel F-35 jets that Lt. Col. Rocky McRae is conducting one can conclude that the central lesson of Vietnam has not actually been learned.
Vermont Air National Guard commanders daily order 115-decibel F-35 flights that assault, hurt, and injure cities full of Vermonters in their own homes, yards, classrooms, playgrounds, and workplaces. As described by the US Air Force itself in its Environmental Impact Statement (see the yellow highlighted areas in Volume II of the EIS here), the F-35 training in cities impairs the learning and cognitive development of children, and repeated exposure to the 115-decibel noise damages hearing. Targeting 1,300 Vermont children living in the extreme F-35 noise target zone with military forces is state-sponsored child abuse. Pain, injury, and suffering were confirmed by in-your-own-words reports from hundreds of Vermonters in online surveys, by the 12-minute film “Jet Line, Voicemails from the Flight Path,” in local news stories, such as this one, and by residents at the September 7, 2021 Winooski City Council meeting.
Unfit for combat
Vermont Air National Guard commanders are producing a unit trained to abuse civilians and, therefore, unfit to serve in combat. The F-35 “training” in such a densely populated location contradicts legitimate military training. Flight hours accumulated in defiance of law of war rules should not be counted toward any flight certification. Nor can “training” with F-35 jets in cities produce a legitimate combat force: It can only produce depraved indifference to suffering, disregard for the rule of law, and violation of the law of war that protects civilians.
Nothing can be more debilitating to morale for a military unit than the growing public recognition that it targets civilians. Commanders knowingly degrade the self-respect of the unit and its members by foisting training with F-35 jets in a densely populated location. Deliberately, knowingly, or recklessly hurting civilians is the polar opposite of a legitimate combat operation. Commanders who order training with F-35 jets in cities produce a military unit that is inherently flawed and counterproductive to any legitimate military objective.
Such training is not just ineffective, immoral, and unjust. By training members in a manner that hurts and injures Vermont civilians, in violation of the military’s own regulations, Vermont laws, US laws, US and Vermont constitutional rights, and rights under ratified treaties, commanders converted themselves and their commands into a criminal enterprise.
No number of self-congratulatory articles like “Road to Combat,” can re-brand such commanders as anything but vicious criminal perpetrators. And that’s even before they are deployed to combat zones–which they never should be.
The New York Times article laid out the facts and the consequences. Even with such deplorable tactics the US still lost the war against ragtag Afghan forces lacking even a single aircraft. More correctly, the loss was guaranteed by use of those criminal tactics.
But the tactics worked perfectly for the military-industrial complex, which was a big winner during the 20 years of war. Much of the trillions of dollars wasted on the Afghan war went to them. In Vermont, certain developers and business leaders spent $100,000 in a failed effort to defeat the Burlington town meeting resolution, likely with a similar expectation of a good return on the investment.
Vermont soldiers and airmen and airwomen who wish to speak out will find the pages of CancelF35.substack.com available to publish their remarks.
The F-35 training in Vermont cities must stop now. The illegal, immoral, and unjust wars must stop now. And those commanders responsible must be held to account.
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).
Instead or in addition, submit your report & complaint to the 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 recently-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>