You didn’t join the Vermont National Guard to hurt children in Winooski

Members of the Vermont National Guard are being used and abused, along with thousands of children and adults, by the hundreds of illegal 115 decibel F-35 training flights each month from a runway amidst Vermont’s most densely populated cities.

Members are urged to ask the Adjutant General and the Wing Commander to explain how training with the F-35 low over such a densely populated area conforms to the military’s own rules that protect civilians from military operations.

The US Air Force itself provided some of the facts: Volume II of the Air Force Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) warned that repeated exposure to military aircraft noise at 114 decibels or higher can cause noise-induced hearing damage (p. C-25). The Air Force further warned that civilian aircraft noise, at a much lower noise level than the F-35, is loud enough to impair the learning and cognitive development of children (p. C-29). Volume I of the Air Force EIS said that among the 6,663 civilians who live within the F-35 noise danger zone are some 1,300 children (p. BR4-30 and BR4-81).

The Veterans Administration (VA) website reports that “hearing problems—including tinnitus, which is a ringing, buzzing, or other type of noise that originates in the head—are by far the most prevalent service-connected disability among American Veterans.” Even though military personnel are required to wear hearing protection when exposed to such loud noise. Civilians are not and cannot be protected from the painful and damaging F-35 noise. Nor can they get treatment from the VA.

Just this month we learned that yet more bodily organs are threatened by noise: Research published in the AARP magazine says “living in a noisy area — like a city or next to a highway — increases your risk of severe stroke by 30 percent.” The article goes on, “the American Heart Association warns of an increased risk of heart attack for those who are regularly exposed to excessive noise, the kind found near airports and highways.” As the 115 decibel noise of the F-35 is way louder than ordinary city, highway, or airport noise, the AARP report means that the 8 to 16 F-35 F-35 training flights each day are damaging vital bodily organs of Vermont civilians.

Though the City of Winooski is the primary target, the indiscriminate F-35 noise is not just targeting Winooski. With the F-35, the governor and Guard commanders are also illegally blasting the low and moderate income wards in the City of Burlington, more than a thousand affordable working class homes in the Chamberlin School neighborhood of the City of South Burlington, and residential, commercial and industrial parts of Williston.

While the Air Force EIS admitted a “disproportionate impact on low income and minority populations” (p. BR4-83) from the F-35 training at Burlington International Airport (BTV), the racial and class discrimination is actually much worse: The brutal F-35 violence directed by the governor and Guard commanders is focused almost exclusively on working class, immigrant, and black and brown populations. None of the area’s tony neighborhoods are in the flight path.

The militia clause of the US Constitution reserves authority of training the guard to the states but requires the training to be “according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” That discipline includes the Universal Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the US War Crimes Act, both of which protect civilians. It also includes provisions of ratified treaties that provide further protection for civilians. Ask your commanders whether deliberately, knowingly, and recklessly hurting civilians with F-35 jets in a city is a way to uphold reckless endangerment article 114 in the UCMJ?

Conducting the F-35 training flights in a city mocks the law-of-war portion of military training that is otherwise considered by the military to be so important that it is required annually for all US military personnel, as well as before deployment on all operations.

“In all other military operations” (operations other than armed conflict), Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 2311.01 requires US military forces to “continue to act consistent with the law of war’s fundamental principles and rules, which include . . . the principles of military necessity, humanity, distinction, proportionality, and honor.” It cites the DoD’s Law of War Manual, which states that the laws of war apply “even more exacting in peace than in war.” (p. 72). So the fundamental principles cannot be ignored for F-35 training in Vermont.

Ask your commanders to explain the “military necessity” for conducting F-35 training in a city, and why a runway remote from populated areas wouldn’t work? The departure of the squadron for 3 weeks of F-35 training at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, demonstrates just that.

Ask your commanders how taking off and landing with F-35 jets from a runway amidst the densely populated Chamberlin School neighborhood and low over Winooski, Burlington, and Williston conforms to “distinction” and “proportionality.” Or contradicts them.

Ask your commanders to explain how “distinction” is satisfied by locating 20 F-35 stealth first-strike nuclear-capable fighter/bombers in a city, thereby making BTV and the cities and towns surrounding it a legitimate target for enemy nuclear missiles. And how “honor” is satisfied when tens of thousands of civilian families in the cities and towns around the airport are made into human shields for the F-35, along with BTV’s 3000 daily civilian passengers.

Ask your commanders to explain how “humanity” is demonstrated by causing such unnecessary suffering to thousands of Vermonters that hundreds of civilians have submitted heartbreaking in-your-own-words statements describing pain, injury, distress and suffering caused by repeated exposure to the F-35 noise in the latest Spring-Summer 2021 version of the online F-35 Report and Complaint form that has so far collected 441 submissions.

And ask them to read about the unnecessary suffering described by 22 Vermonters, most from Winooski, that was reported in a front page story in Seven Days, “Sound Effects: In the F-35’s Flight Path, Vermonters’ Lives Have Changed” on July 7, 2021.

Ask your commanders to explain how it is possible to properly train military forces in any of these fundamental law of war principles at a location where the principles are so blatantly violated. Ask them why they don’t abort the F-35 training in a city and tell the governor that the F-35 training must be conducted remote from populated areas to be conducted according to those principles.

Ask your commanders how the Vermont National Guard can defend democracy by foisting F-35 training on Winooski against the will of Winooski voters who adopted a resolution at town meeting in March by a two to one margin to request that “the state halt F-35 training in a densely populated area, such as Winooski.” And foisting the F-35 training on Burlington notwithstanding that city’s 2018 town meeting vote to cancel the planned F-35 basing at BTV.

If the F-35 training in a city upholds neither the rule of law nor democracy, if it damages the bodily organs of civilians, if it causes hearing damage and cognitive impairment of children, ask your commanders how they justify what they are doing? And what they expect to happen to the level of respect for the Vermont National Guard if such abuse continues?

You joined the Vermont National Guard to serve and protect Vermonters. Whether full time or weekend service, whether Army or Air Guard, whatever your rank, you have the chance now to protect thousands of Vermont families. Just by speaking up. Just by using your 1st amendment rights.

It was courageous dissent among soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines that forced the government to bring the troops home from Vietnam, saving many lives on both sides.

Your words, as members of the Guard, can encourage legislative leaders to hold a hearing at which the governor and commanders can be questioned. Courageously speaking up can also help restore honor to the Vermont National Guard and respect to its members that is rapidly being eroded by the actions of the governor and commanders as they sacrifice the health and safety of Vermont civilians and as they use and abuse members of the Guard.

Vermonters know that you, the members of the Vermont National Guard, didn’t join to hurt children in Winooski. We depend on you to speak up and tell your commanders to respect the rule of law, to respect the democratic town meeting votes in Burlington and Winooski, and to halt the F-35 training in a populated area now.

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

Add your own report & complaint to the online F-35 Spring-Summer 2021 Report & Complaint Form: https://tinyurl.com/4zjjn39x

See the responses to the F-35 Spring-Summer 2021 Report & Complaint Form (so far 441 responses): https://tinyurl.com/3svacfvx

Senator Patrick Leahy 800-642-3193 Chief of Staff <john_tracy@leahy.senate.gov>

Senator Bernie Sanders 800-339-9834 <Senator@sanders.senate.gov>

Congressman Peter Welch 888-605-7270 Chief of Staff <patrick.satalin@mail.house.gov>

Burlington City Council <citycouncil@burlingtonvt.gov>

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger <mayor@burlingtonvt.gov>

Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott <klott@winooskivt.org>

S. Burlington City Council Chair Helen Riehle <hriehle@sburl.com>

Williston Selectboard Chair Terry Macaig <macaig@msn.com>

VT Senate President Becca Balint <bbalint@leg.state.vt.us>

VT House Speaker Jill Krowinski <jkrowinski@leg.state.vt.us>

Attorney General TJ Donavan <DonovanTJ@gmail.com>

States Attorney Sarah George <Sarah.fair.george@gmail.com>

Vermont’s Federal Prosecutor <usavt.contactus1@usdoj.gov>

Adjutant General Brig Gen Gregory C Knight <gregory.c.knight.mil@mail.mil>

Major J Scott Detweiler <john.s.detweiler.mil@mail.mil>

Wing Commander Col David Shevchik <david.w.shevchik@mail.mil>