Poke in the Eye

Plus: Legal Warrior; Turncoats

Hodges' copies of the memos are a patchwork of highlighted phrases and detailed notes in the margins, isolating terms he says are suspect. For example, Hodges says the use of the term "billet" in an August 1, 1972, memo to denote National Guard positions was not used by the Air Guard, which instead referred to positions as pilot slots. He also takes issue with the thrust of that memo, in which Killian orders "1st lt. Bush be suspended from flight status due to failure to perform to USAF/TexANG standards and failure to meet annual physical examination (flight) as ordered." Hodges insists pilots were never ordered to take "annual flying physicals." The exams were automatic. "And when you missed your physical, you're automatically grounded," he says. "Nobody has to direct you to be grounded, because you're automatically grounded."

Hodges also disputes sentiments expressed by Rather during the September 15 broadcast of 60 Minutes when he says that those disputing the memos have never criticized the heart of the report, that "George Bush received preferential treatment to get into the National Guard and, once accepted, failed to satisfy the requirements of his service."

Hodges says he was never aware of Bush receiving preferential treatment to get into the Guard. None was needed, he contends. While there were long waiting lists to get into the Texas Air National Guard in the early 1960s, Hodges insists by 1967 the pool of candidates willing to commit to a six-year enlistment had all but evaporated. "In 1967 we were hurting for pilots," he says. "We were having to advertise. We had to recruit pilots."

He also insists media reports implying Bush didn't live up to Guard requirements at the tail end of his enlistment are also inaccurate. When Bush moved to Alabama to work on a political campaign, Hodges says, he was never assigned to the Alabama Guard, nor was he under its command, as some reports contend. He says Bush was not required to attend drills in Alabama but was given permission to work on the campaign and attend drills if he so desired as a courtesy. "As far as I know, he never made a drill in the Alabama unit, even though we gave him permission to," Hodges says. "We had hoped that he would, so that when he came back he wouldn't have to make up so many. It still wasn't absolutely necessary."

Hodges says what media reports miss in their dissection of Bush's irregular record during the last two years of his enlistment was that the Air Force was in the process of decommissioning his plane, the F-102. In the fall of 1972, Hodges says, he received word that he was losing 10 pilots and that his unit's 22 F-102s were being phased out. Because Bush had less than two years left in his enlistment, he was ineligible to be trained and certified in another fighter. Neither the Alabama unit, nor the Massachusetts unit he attempted to transfer to when he enrolled at Harvard, flew the F-102. "He couldn't get in," says Hodges of the Massachusetts Guard. "Normally a unit wouldn't accept a 102 pilot unless they were flying 102s. They were flying F-106s. We transferred him to the inactive reserve...As I remember, when he left us, he was in our good graces." --Mark Stuertz

Legal Warrior

Dallas attorney Mike Snipes ends two careers this fall following a hair-raising stint in the hinterlands of Iraq.

For 14 years, Snipes has been an assistant U.S. attorney. Since 1998, he's specialized in white-collar fraud.

For 14 years Colonel Mike Snipes also has been a warrior in the Army Reserve. "Unlike other jobs in the Army," says Snipes, a West Point grad and former military prosecutor, "the legal work never stops."

Snipes took command of the legal unit for the 1st Infantry Division in June 2001. After 9-11, Snipes and his team of 75 worked every weekend to help soldiers write wills, shutter businesses and terminate leases--important but hardly dangerous work.

Early this year, Snipes got called to active duty. "They asked me to send 14 of our lawyers to Germany," Snipes says. "I wasn't going to send my guys and me not go."

Snipes supervised courts-martial in Germany. When ordered to send an attorney to Iraq as adjutant to Major General John Batiste in the Tikrit region, Snipes jumped at the chance. "I thought it would be the best way to end my career," he says.

Living in the back of a truck, Snipes took notes and wrote speeches for Batiste. For two months, Snipes accompanied Batiste on trips to meet local leaders. "Most of the people there love us," Snipes says. "What they want us to do is leave when things are stable and secure."

After returning to Dallas, Snipes entered private practice. And he has gone on Individual Ready Reserve status.

He watches war news with a fresh eye. "So many good things are happening," Snipes says. "But it only takes one horrible terrorism act to make that look completely different." --Glenna Whitley

Turncoats

"Rock the Vote" is a 50-city, MTV-sponsored tour that's primarily concerned with registering voters for the presidential election. But last week, UT-Arlington's College Republicans had another concern: informing the youths of Arlington of the local stuff on the November 2 ballot--specifically, the referendum to fund a new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys.

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