'Whistleblower' reveals details about the crash of the C-17 at Elmendorf

Alaska Older Veterans Report

Those of you (including this retired Army pilot) who have witnessed an aircraft accident first hand know the litany of emotional phases that one experiences. At first you deny the accident happened. “I know that crew and they are the best. They’re just lost, will fix the radio and call the center or the tower.”

Next you become angry, saying , “Why did this crash have to happen? Someone could have prevented this from happening. Who is that person? Let’s find out.”

The third stage of grief is a normal reaction to your feelings of helplessness and vulnerability, which is to bargain. You attempt to regain control by bargaining with God or your higher power. “Oh God, why this happen? Could I have done something different that would have prevented this tragedy?”

Next you have a feeling of sadness or depression that seems will never go away. The feeling of sadness depends on how close you were to the personnel involved. Once you are ready, you move to the fifth stage, which is acceptance.

How one handles these stages differs. A person’s character and sense of duty are paramount when it’s a military mishap with loss of life and your professional input is required.

Writing a book is what the author, Lt. Col, Linda Dunegan, did after the July 28, 2010, crash of the Alaska Air National Guard C-17 at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage. This crash was filmed in the final seconds of the fatal flight and is agonizing to view.

As a full-time Title 32 officer, Lt. Col. Dunegan was in charge of medical records for the 176th Wing at JBER when this tragedy occurred. Prior to the accident she had discovered anomalies in the records that did not pass the “smell test.” Her futile attempts to report these irregularities to her higher command were met with some of the most unprofessional and illicit actions one has ever seen.

I am a former Army aviation unit evaluator. I used Army Aviation Regulations standards (AR 95-1 at the time) and the published checklists to conduct my inspections and reviews. I found that even the best aviation unit was not perfect, and we didn’t expect them to be so. So when I found some minor paperwork requirement to have 100 percent compliance, I would think, “Great job.”

When I found two or three more at 100 percent, I would become curious and would start verifying signatures and comparing duty logs with the part time traditional Guardsmen with the full-time staff. Anomalies would begin to stack up, and the full-time staff would start to explain each and every mistake.

One of my favorites was to call the single parent’s guardians listed on their signed and verified official guardian document. This document listed who would care for their kids if the guard member were to be mobilized with the unit. This official document had to be signed for a unit member to be a mobilization asset. No signed guardian form, then no job in a troop unit. As you might have guessed, most grandparents, sister and cousins were surprised when we called and asked them to verify the form.

The best evaluators are the ones who have “pencil whipped” a few documents over beer at the tavern. Of course, I never did this because it would have been wrong, and my Momma won’t have approved. But I knew some that did and could recognize the signs. As amusing as it was to watch them dance to the music, at some point corrections must be made, on and off the record. No final report goes to the public and the news media without the report being “sanitized” by higher commanders. The personnel at higher headquarters always have a different agenda than do the trained professional evaluators who conducted the review.

I am not making a judgment on this procedure. I understood the bigger picture. I knew my career in the National Guard and Reserves included how dedicated I was to the “Good Ole Boy Club” (which includes men and women, officers and enlisted). Some things never change. That background brings me to my book review. As a disclosure, I was one of many that read the published accident report and made general comments to the author, which she included in her book.

“The Price of Whistleblowing” is about courage, integrity, sense of duty and performance in spite of deplorable acts of sexual harassment, bullying and humiliation by Alaska Air National members with whom author Linda Dunegan worked. She is now retired, working as a small business owner, writer, wife and mom. She is most proud of her role as a mom. She has devoted a large portion of her busy days documenting, in great detail, events before and after the2010 C-17 crash. This book is about her sojourn through the mine field at the 176th Wing of the Alaska Air National Guard.

In this book, she exposes by name the people involved, and documents it. At best, she shows their dubious actions in great detail, with published documents to back up her claims regarding what led to this crash and her attempts before and after the accident.

The actions some of her peers employed will leave you flabbergasted and wondering who is in charge at the Alaska National Guard. This book, coming at the tail end of a sexual harassment investigation at the recruiting command, points to larger problems with the Alaska National Guard and its promotion and hiring practices. In my opinion, the unprofessional treatment of Lt. Col. Dunegan is not just an isolated event and occurs in most guard units to some degree.

Read this book and be prepared to get angry and upset at the cavalier manner in which a professional woman was treated in the Alaska Air National Guard because of her attempts to get to the truth of the C-17 crash. The irregularities were minor and may not have been a factor in the crash, however the prevailing questionable attitude in the upper commands at the time certainly may have been a factor.

This book may be purchased online at LindaDunegan.com or at the colleges bookstores and Fireside Books in Palmer. Audio and e-books are on the way. Call CB Communications, LLC at 907-310-3468.

Mike Dryden is a retired Army Major and current board member of Older Persons Action Group, Inc.