- OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (AFPN) -
An airman first class from the 55th Transportation Squadron was convicted
in a summary court-martial April 21 of failing to obey an order by refusing
to take the anthrax vaccination. The case was the Air Force's first anthrax
vaccination refusal to reach court-martial.
- Airman 1st Class Colby Bickley, a general
purpose vehicle mechanic, was sentenced to seven days confinement, reduction
in grade to airman and restriction to base for 21 days.
- His maximum sentence could have been
one month confinement, reduction to airman basic and forfeiture of two-thirds
pay for one month.
- Maj. Renee Bennett, the presiding judge,
issued the sentence after accepting a guilty plea from Bickley, hearing
testimony from witnesses, and considering closing statements by Capt. Jeff
Lustick, the prosecuting attorney, and Capt. Dave Eby, Bickley's defense
- Arguing for a less-than-maximum sentence,
Eby emphasized Bickley's clean record prior to refusing the vaccination.
He also stressed that Bickley's refusal, which grew out of information
he had found on the Internet, was based on a belief that the vaccine may
have had negative long-term health ramifications, not on a desire to avoid
temporary duty in Kuwait, an assignment he'd been notified of prior to
- Lustick, meanwhile, said the vaccine
was a force-protection measure no different than one's Kevlar helmet, flak
vest or rifle. He further stressed that by refusing the vaccination Bickley
made himself a liability to his unit and threatened mission accomplishment.
- "What he did was illegal, and it
violated the very laws and regulations he swore to his nation to uphold
when he took his oath of enlistment," Lustick said.
- After the court, Lt. Col. Jeff Curtis,
the wing's staff judge advocate, spoke to news media representatives and
stressed the importance of adherence to orders.
- "A military unit is a team, and
if you've got one or two people picking and choosing which orders to obey
and which ones to ignore, lives are going to be put at risk," Curtis
- Curtis also questioned the wisdom of
relying on the Internet to make such lofty decisions.
- "People need to think twice before
accepting at face value everything they see on the Internet," Curtis
said. "There's a lot of half-truths, misinformation and outright lies
out there, and it really should not be looked at as an infallible source
of reliable information.
- "I hope one of the outcomes of this
court-martial is that if there are other people out there who are thinking
about refusing to take the anthrax vaccination because of what they've
seen on the Internet, that they strongly reconsider and do the right thing
by getting the straight facts from the military public health section at
- Curtis also said that while much misinformation
is spread from unofficial Internet sites, people can visit a pair of official
Air Force and Department of Defense sites to learn more about the anthrax
vaccine's safety. Those sites are at www.defenselink.mil and www.af.mil/current/anthrax.
- Lt. Col. (Dr.) Carey Capell, 55th Aerospace
Medicine Squadron commander, also met news media representatives and underscored
the vaccine's safety.
- "This vaccine has a 30-year track
record of safety, and there have been no reported long-term adverse side
effects at all," Capell said. "Compared to a lot of other vaccines,
the anthrax vaccine has actually proven itself to be more safe than most
of the other routine vaccinations out there."
- Source: http://www.af.mil/leadstory.html