Vermont: The Place to Train Pilots to Commit War Crimes
The 115-decibel F-35 training in Vermont cities violates the military’s own regulations, including each one of the fundamental law of war principles.
Under the command of the state’s own Governor, the Vermont Air National Guard has been blasting the ears and brains of cities full of Vermonters with 115-decibel F-35 jets for nearly 3 years. Then, in May, Vermonters got a bit of respite when eight of the state’s twenty F-35s were forward deployed to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany where they continue to participate in a NATO “enhanced air policing mission” in Eastern Europe.
But Earlier this month a US Air Force General ordered more F-35 jets from Eglin Air Force base in Florida to join in the vicious daily 115-decibel assaults on Vermonters. That base has a runway that aims away from populated areas. The opposition campaign sent an “Open Letter to Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Geraghty, Commander, Eglin Air Force Base,” dated July 9, 2022 calling on the General to “immediately abort the planned F-35 training flights in densely populated Vermont cities.”
The campaign to protect Vermont’s largest cities from the extreme noise and to prevent those cities from being used as human shields for the nuclear-capable F-35 jets began 9 years before the jets arrived in 2019. The ongoing campaign has included mass demonstrations, rallies, sit-ins, the arrest of Ben & Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen for driving through Burlington pulling a trailer with a massive 115-decibel sound system blaring the noise of the F-35, city-wide votes, law suits, a widely-circulated 12-minute film, and a complaint to the Inspector General signed by 657 Vermonters.
Six years before the jets arrived, the US Air Force Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) said the homes of 6,663 civilians, including some 1,300 children, would be repeatedly exposed to the extreme noise in the Air Force identified oval-shaped F-35 noise target zone centered on the runway at Burlington International Airport.
Volume II of the Air Force EIS admitted that repeated exposure to military aircraft noise at the 115-decibel level of the F-35 can damage hearing. It also admitted that aircraft noise even at the much lower levels produced at busy civilian airports can impair the learning and cognitive development of children.
Local news media reported the pain and suffering caused by the actual F-35 training in densely populated Vermont cities. Among the articles on VTDigger, “Panic attacks. Ringing ears. Shaking walls. Happy 1-year anniversary to the F-35s,” “Pandemic isolation and increased flights spike F-35 noise complaints,” and “Winooski area residents voice their opposition to F-35 training flights.” Channel 5 TV news reported, “F-35 forum in Winooski brings out residents to voice concerns about jet presence.” A Seven Days cover story, “Sound Effects: In the F-35’s Flight Path, Vermonters’ Lives Have Changed.” The 12-minute film “Jet Line, Voicemails from the Flight Path” gave voice and series of report and complaint form surveys allowed hundreds of Vermonters to describe the effects.
Totally illegal: The military’s own rules are violated
The 115-decibel F-35 training in Vermont cities violates the military’s own regulations, including each one of the fundamental law of war principles. For example, Department of Defense Directive 2311.01 states:
It is DoD policy that: Members of the DoD Components comply with the law of war during all armed conflicts, however characterized. In all other military operations, members of the DoD Components will continue to act consistent with the law of war’s fundamental principles and rules, which include those in Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the principles of military necessity, humanity, distinction, proportionality, and honor.
No exception to the rules for training
If military regulations are not scrupulously enforced during training, pilots are actually taught to ignore or violate those regulations. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that no less an authority than the Joint Chiefs of Staff includes training as an “operation” along with such other military actions as strategic, operational, and tactical military missions (p. 159). Which leaves commanders zero room to legally deviate from acting consistent with the law of war’s fundamental principles and rules during training in Vermont with F-35 jets.
The US Constitution assigns authority of training state national guard units to the states according to the discipline prescribed by Congress (Art. 1, Sec. 8 Cl. 16). Federal law requires states to conform to the same discipline protecting civilians as US armed forces are supposed to obey. Instead, however, the Governor and Vermont National Guard commanders have been violating each and every one of the law of war’s fundamental principles and rules with impunity. Resulting in a free-for-all of physical abuse, pain, injury, and suffering on a mass scale from hundreds of F-35 training flights a month in Vermont cities.
Airmen are training to commit war crimes
The illegal training with the F-35 in cities gets airmen used to hurting civilians so they will accept orders to carry out heinous war crimes in ongoing and future US wars. The F-35 training in cities is training to commit war crimes:
Violate “distinction”–Distinction requires maintaining separation of military forces from populated areas. Intermingling 115 decibel F-35 jets with the state’s most densely populated cities of Burlington, Winooski, and South Burlington is the opposite.
Violate “honor”–the Vermont Air National Guard is knowingly, deliberately, and intentionally using cities full of civilians as human shields for the nuclear-capable F-35.
Violate “military necessity”–the Air Force admitted that no military necessity requires training in any city. Along with the Vermont city location, its F-35 Environmental Impact Statement identified 5 other locations, all remote from populated areas, where the F-35 basing and training flights could effectively be conducted. Locations that had longer runways and better training airspace than the Vermont location. That is how the US Air Force admitted that the location in Vermont cities is a matter of mere convenience, not military necessity.
Violate “proportionality”–an operation must be aborted if the anticipated harm to civilians is disproportionate to the military advantage. But conducting F-35 training in a city provides zero military advantage as compared to training from a runway remote from populated areas.
As part of “proportionality,” the Department of Defense Law of War Manual includes the requirement to take feasible precautions to protect the civilian population before launching a military operation Yet, neither the Vermont Guard nor the Air Force took the reasonable feasible precaution of locating the F-35 training at a runway remote from populated areas. Nor did they sound-insulate a single one of the 2,963 households and 7 schools the US Air Force EIS identified in the F-35 noise target zone.
Violate “humanity”–Designed for stealth, supersonic flight, and high-G maneuvers, the F-35 was not designed for city life. By training with the F-35 in cities, commanders use it in a manner for which it was not designed that causes unnecessary suffering on a mass scale.
Fraud, waste, and abuse on steroids
Because the F-35 training in Vermont cities blatantly violates each and every one of the military’s own regulations, the training deeply corrupts the airmen involved and their units. While Articles 90, 91, and 92 of the Universal Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) requires airmen to comply only with legal orders, so far not one airman has openly refused to participate in the illegal F-35 training in Vermont cities. But that day may be coming.
Racism and classism
The Air Force wrote in its Environmental Impact Statement that the F-35 training in Vermont cities would “disproportionately impact low income and minority populations.” Nearly all the 6,663 people living in the F-35 target zone are white working class, BIPOC, or immigrant. The homes of Vermont’s wealthy classes are entirely absent from the F-35 noise target zone. F-35 training in Vermont cities is not just illegal. It is also state-sponsored racist and classist violence.
Especially consider these facts about the City of Winooski: The runway aims at Winooski one mile away. Most of the city is in the Air Force designated noise target zone. 23% of Winooski residents are people of color, nearly four times the ratio for Vermont as a whole. 22% are foreign born and more than 20 languages spoken, while for Vermont fewer than 5% are foreign born. Nearly 30% of Winooski’s population lives in poverty, triple Vermont’s 10% poverty rate. 63% of Winooski’s 3,259 homes are rental, close to double the rate for Vermont. In Winooski 17% of people under 65 have a disability, while for Vermont 11% have one. 97.9% of the 774 children in Winooski’s K‑12 public schools are on free or reduced-price lunch, while for the state 38% of the children are.
Democracy denied: State officials foisted the F-35 on cities against the will of the people
Along with the Governor and the military commanders, both of Vermont’s US Senators and the state’s sole Congressman share responsibility for foisting the F-35 basing on Vermont cities against the will of the people. Voters adopted resolutions on town meeting ballots in Burlington in 2018 and in Winooski in 2021 calling for “cancellation of the F-35 basing” and calling for “a halt to the training flights in a densely populated area” respectively. The Burlington resolution won with 55.4% despite a massive $100,000 campaign against it. The Winooski resolution won with 67.1%.
The F-35 blocks housing
Here in Vermont the 115-decibel F-35 is responsible for keeping 44 acres of land in the F-35 noise target zone vacant of desperately-needed housing because of military jet noise. Once the F-35 departs, under FAA grant assurances, the airport must sell that vacant land for housing, including affordable rental housing.
The F-35 is a climate killer
Each F-35 burns 22 gallons of jet fuel per minute in straight and level flight, 1,340 gallons an hour. The Pentagon admits that global warming is a national security threat. Yet, the US military is the single largest user of fossil fuels on the planet, as described in the Brown University, Watson Institute study, “Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War.”
The F-35 does not abolish the fossil fuel industry. Instead, the F-35 actively promotes its expansion and climate catastrophe.
The F-35 does not protect Vermont from mega storms, pandemics, racism, job loss, cyber-attacks, nuclear missiles, terrorism, food insecurity, or income inequality.
The F-35 cannot protect people or planet from sea level rise, famine, mass extinctions, ocean acidification, wildfires, temperature extremes, diminished access to fresh water, and deforestation.
The F-35 cannot prevent mass migration and wars caused by climate change.
The F-35 is a climate killer.
War is not the answer
Nor can the F-35 protect black, brown, indigenous, women, LGBTQ, immigrants, refugees, or veterans.
The F-35 program drains $1.7 trillion from health care, education, affordable housing, infrastructure, and preventing more global pandemics. As military spending creates far fewer jobs per billion dollars spent than money spent on any of those things, the F-35 is a jobs killer.
The F-35 does not take on the billionaire class.
The F-35 does not raise the minimum wage or facilitate organizing workers into unions.
The F-35 does not take on white nationalists.
The F-35 does not drive money out of politics.
The F-35 does not abolish voter suppression.
The F-35 does not abolish tuition and student debt.
The F-35 does not stop inflation. Nor can it prevent a recession.
Fourth Estate falls flat
Widely circulated print and broadcast news media adequately covered the pain, injury, and distress produced by the F-35. But it has so far failed to report that Department of Defense Directive 2311.01, Air Force Policy Directive 51-4 (par. 1.7), and Air Force Targeting Doctrine (p. 66-69) are violated by the F-35 training flights in cities. Nor that the US Constitution and US federal law give the states, and not the federal government, command and control of the training of state national guard units. Nor that Constitution and federal law require state officials to follow military regulations that protect civilians.
Thus, the constitutional right of the people to be protected from state national guard training operations—and the federal law and military regulations implementing that right—remain covered up.
News-media failure allow the mass pain and suffering and the law breaking by the Governor and by military commanders to continue.
A mass campaign is needed
Madison Wisconsin is next for illegal F-35 basing and training. Other cities will follow. A nation-wide mass campaign is needed to put a stop to the state-sponsored F-35 assaults on working class, BIPOC, and immigrant families in Vermont cities and to prevent the spread of the illegal, immoral, and unjust F-35 to more places.
James Marc Leas is a patent lawyer in South Burlington Vermont. He has a Bachelor’s in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Master’s in physics from the University of Massachusetts, where he completed all requirements for the Ph.D. in physics except the dissertation. He was an engineer at IBM for 20 years and at Solarex for five years. He holds 43 patents, most assigned to IBM. He was a staff physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists for one year. He taught physics and biology at Mackenzie High School in Detroit, Michigan for three years. Thirty of his publications on F-35 basing are in Truthout, AlterNet, The Burlington Free Press, 05401 Plus and VTDigger.
Write or call your public servants and demand an immediate halt to F-35 training in cities.
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).
Submit your report & complaint to the active online F-35 Fall 2021-Summer 2022 Report & Complaint Form: https://tinyurl.com/5d89ckj9
See all the graphs and in-your-own words statements on the 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 plus 77 more so far on the form that will remain active through summer 2022.
Senator Patrick Leahy 800-642-3193 Chief of Staff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Senator Bernie Sanders 800-339-9834 <Senator@sanders.senate.gov>
Congressman Peter Welch 888-605-7270 Chief of Staff <email@example.com>
Burlington City Council <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger <email@example.com>
Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott <firstname.lastname@example.org>
S. Burlington City Council Chair Helen Riehle <email@example.com>
Williston Selectboard Chair Terry Macaig <firstname.lastname@example.org>
VT Senate President Becca Balint <email@example.com>
VT House Speaker Jill Krowinski <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Attorney General TJ Donavan <DonovanTJ@gmail.com>
States Attorney Sarah George <Sarah.email@example.com>
Vermont’s Federal Prosecutor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Adjutant General Brig Gen Gregory C Knight <email@example.com>
Major J Scott Detweiler <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wing Commander Col David Shevchik email@example.com
Vermont National Guard Inspector General Lt. Col. Edward J Soychak <firstname.lastname@example.org>
US Air Force Inspector General Lt. Col. Pamela D. Koppelmann <email@example.com>
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall <Frank.Kendall@us.af.mil>
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