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April 9, 2004
Notes from the Pentagon

Endless suit
Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness, thought her latest court victory would finally end Lohrenz v. Donnelly.

Just a few months ago, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, ruled in her favor, dismissing a lawsuit brought by former Navy Lt. Carney Dunai Lohrenz. Mrs. Donnelly has spent countless hours, and $600,000 in legal fees, defending her contention that Mrs. Lohrenz received special treatment as a fighter pilot trainee.

Mrs. Lohrenz sued Mrs. Donnelly for slander more than seven years ago. A district court judge ultimately dismissed the case, and three appeals judges agreed with his decision last December.

But Mrs. Donnelly learned recently that Mrs. Lohrenz's lawyers, who handle the case fee-free, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments. This means another round of briefs, and more legal bills for Mrs. Donnelly.

The Army's 4th Infantry Division spent over a year in Iraq fighting insurgents in the Tikrit section of the notorious Sunni Triangle. The Pentagon was closely watching the division's retention rates to see if months away from home and hazardous duty would prompt more soldiers to vote with their feet.

But the early numbers are encouraging. The 4th ID, now mostly back home at Fort Hood, Texas, reports that it exceeded all retention goals in the quarter that ended March 31. In the categories of first-termers, mid-career and career soldiers, the division exceeded its re-enlistment targets by between 153 percent and 170 percent.

The division also surpassed its goals for fiscal 2003, which ended Sept. 30

Air Force replies
Capt. Denise Kerr, an Air Force spokeswoman at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., took exception to a recent Inside the Ring item.

It suggested the Air Force was punishing Maj. Harry Schmidt more severely for his "friendly fire" incident than any of the more than eight such mistakes in the war on terrorism.

The item also quoted Maj. Schmidt's defense attorney, Charles Gittins, as saying the reason his client was treated this way is because his bomb killed the soldiers of an ally Canada in the Afghanistan incident.

The Ring specifically mentioned the crew of a B-52 bomber who mistakenly dropped ordnance on a Marine Corps position on the Godoria Range on the Horn of Africa. One Marine died in the blast. The bomber's commander and two navigators received reprimands; Maj. Schmidt faced the choice of admitting to criminal charges or going to trial. He chose a court-martial.

Responded Capt. Kerr: "If you hear the allegation that somehow the crew members in Godoria Range are being treated differently from [Maj. Schmidt] is because [Maj. Schmidt's] incident resulted in the deaths of Canadian forces, and therefore the Air Force pursued court-martial action against [Maj. Schmidt] in order to placate an ally, please consider our response to be as follows. The allegation is not true. The nationality of the friendly armed forces who died in the [Afghanistan] and Godoria Range incidents had no bearing on the outcome of either case or any bearings on what disciplinary actions were pursed."

The Air Force originally charged Maj. Schmidt, an Illinois Air National Guardsman, with involuntary manslaughter. Maj. Schmidt believed gunfire from a Canadian training exercise in April 2002 was aimed at his F-16 and he responded by dropping a 500-pound bomb.

The Air Force did not charge any of the B-52 crew, nor did it release their names.

Change in Europe
Marine Corps Gen. Jim Jones, commander of U.S. forces in Europe, recently disclosed some of the planning for restructuring U.S. forces in Europe that will result in "strategically more effective" military power.

"Instead of having large, fixed operating bases in the way that we had them in the 20th century, we're looking at a family of bases, essentially three categories," Gen. Jones said.

Major facilities like Ramstein Air Base in Germany and the U.S. Army base at Grafenwoehr likely will continue.

The main changes will occur for Army forces, he said.

"What we're trying to do is change the footprint of the armies so they can become more useable, more deployable and more sustainable when they go off on different missions," Gen. Jones told reporters during a recent breakfast.

The goal is to create "a lighter, more agile, more expeditionary type forces" based in Europe and others able to rotate in from the United States and elsewhere.

The combination will make European combat forces "strategically useful to the east and to the south."

"We will have a combination of forward based forces and forward deployed forces that can engage to the east and engage to the south in different types of bases," he said.

Forward operating bases that are smaller than Ramstein's, Gen. Jones said will be set up and be similar in size to the current bases now in Bosnia. Another new type of base will be called "Cooperative Security Location" probably in the former Soviet republics and in former Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe.

The bases would consist of "a bare-bones base of a dirt strip, some huts, maybe some power, maybe some water, but this would be a very expeditionary base for Special Forces and the like to have a very small footprint to be able to go and engage where they might have to for either real world missions or training missions," Gen. Jones said.

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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