- TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (Reuters)
- The Air Force will proceed with a court martial against a mechanic who
has refused mandatory vaccination against anthrax, a base spokesman said
- Brig. Gen. Steven Roser, the commander
of the 60th Air Mobility Wing, reviewed the case against Airman 1st Class
Jeff Bettendorf earlier this week and determined he should face a special
court martial, Travis Air Force Base spokesman Maj. Mike Halbig said Wednesday.
- Halbig said that, if found guilty, Bettendorf
could face a maximum penalty ranging from six months confinement to demotion
and punitive discharge.
- Bettendorf, an aerospace equipment specialist,
is one of a small but growing number of U.S. service members who object
to Secretary of Defense William Cohen's order last May that all members
of the military submit to inoculations against anthrax, a biological warfare
- Military officials say the vaccine, which
has been in use since 1991, is completely safe and the only way to protect
U.S. soldiers from biological attack in places like the Gulf.
- But critics allege the vaccine has not
been properly tested, with some even drawing connections between it and
the mysterious illness known as Gulf War Syndrome.
- Bettendorf, 25, refused an offer of a
summary court martial, the lowest level of military court proceeding, declaring
he wanted to put the issue before a jury of fellow soldiers. Halbig said
that would now be scheduled.
- Separately, at the Camp Pendleton Marine
base near San Diego, about 20 Marines have refused to take the anthrax
vaccine and some of them could face possible court martial, a base legal
- Col. Jim Walker of the 1st Marine Expeditionary
Force said that a number of them had already agreed to accept administrative
punishment, but that a handful looked likely to follow Bettendorf into
the military courts.
- "Several cases are currently pending
special court martial," Walker said, although he added that none were
currently docketed for the court.