Nation/World

Air Force Officials Relieved Of Duty After Sex Discrimination Charges First Female Fighter Pilot Says She Was Denied Advancement

After an investigation of charges of sexual discrimination made by the first female fighter pilot in the Air National Guard, two of her former commanding officers at the 174th Tactical Fighter Wing, based in Syracuse, N.Y., have been relieved of duty, a spokesman for the National Guard said Saturday.

In a report released Friday, the Air National Guard said that Maj. Jacqueline Parker had not been provided with fair and equal treatment in the two years she served in the 174th, which was informally called “The Boys From Syracuse.”

Parker, a former Air Force flight instructor whose achievements earned her an award from Hillary Rodham Clinton, was not granted clearance for various flight missions that male pilots with equal performance records had received, said Daniel Donohue, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon. In addition, she was subjected to crude, sexually offensive comments from other members of her unit, Donohue said.

The report was based on 2,000 pages of sworn testimony from Parker and dozens of other members of the air wing, he said.

Friday, the commander of the 174th Wing, Col. David Hamlin, was relieved of command, denied the chance to be promoted to the rank of brigadier general, and was asked to resign, Donohue said. If he refuses to resign, Donohue added, “He’s history anyway.”

Col. Thomas D. Webster, the vice commander and air commander of the wing, was also relieved of his command and was reassigned to a low-level position, Donohue said.

The investigation resulted from a June visit to the Syracuse wing by Brig. Gen. John Fenimore, commander of the New York Air National Guard, who was told in passing by Parker that she was not planning to stay with the unit, Donohue said.

Fenimore pressed her for reasons, and she described how she had been held back from qualifying for particular missions when male pilots who had performed no better had moved ahead, Donohue said.

Parker told the general that the standard rough banter among pilots had in her case gone far beyond the norm, with some pilots suggesting that her sex had played a role in advancing her career, Donohue said.

Parker has moved to Chicago and could not be found for an interview Saturday.

Patrick J. MacKrell, a lawyer representing Hamlin and two pilots in the unit who were named in the investigation, said that the Air National Guard had overplayed instances in which off-color remarks were made about Parker and underplayed instances in which the female pilot had acted in an unseemly fashion herself.

MacKrell pointed out that the report confirmed Parker had carried business cards with the slogan “mankiller,” and she had acknowledged pinching male pilots’ buttocks.

He added that the report, released Friday at a briefing at the Pentagon and at a news conference in Albany, N.Y., was an attempt by the National Guard to avoid any taint like that left on the Navy by the so-called Tailhook incident.

“The investigation glosses over every incident in which Maj. Parker can be held accountable and focuses only on those incidents where other people may or may not have done something perceived to be wrong,” MacKrell said.

Donohue said: “When you command a unit, you have to take responsibility for what happens. Was there discrimination against this lady? Yes. Was there conduct and behavior among these troops that was inappropriate? Yes. If it isn’t the commanders’ responsibility to fix that, then whose is it?”



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