Pilot who refused anthrax injections may be booted out

April 21, 2000|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON -- The Air Force pilot who asked to resign from the military because of harassment over his refusal to take anthrax injections has been told he may be dishonorably discharged from the service.

Capt. Clifton Volpe submitted his resignation through the chain of command last week, asking Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters for an "honorable" separation from the service. But Volpe said that his resignation request had been returned without having been sent any higher than his squadron commander, Lt. Col. Kenneth Konicki.

Accompanying it was a note from Konicki, stating, "Officers may not apply for [separation] when their commanders notify them that ... discharge action is being considered."

Volpe said he was told the forms of discharge being considered included the "less than honorable" or "dishonorable" conditions.

Volpe complained that he has continued to be harassed and punished by superiors for refusing the vaccine, although he received an official reprimand and was fined $3,210 several months ago.

Citing the cases of several pilots and air crew who had become ill after taking the anthrax shots, Volpe was among the first to balk at the inoculation program.

Last month, Air Force Maj. Sonnie Bates was given a less-damaging general discharge after receiving a fine and a reprimand for declining to take the anthrax shots for health reasons.

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