CD2 forum leaves more McSally questions than answers

On Saturday, July 26, the candidates in the Republican Primary for CD2 answered questions at a forum held at the Madera Clubhouse in Quail Creek, home of candidate Shelley Kais. Kais, Martha McSally and Chuck Wooten answered questions before the crowd of approximately 400, mostly senior citizens, who live in the nearby retirement communities.

The carefully crafted questions were geared to highlight Kais’s strengths, but the moderator; Dan Shearer, a supporter of incumbent Ron Barber added drama by taking the opportunity to call-out front runner Colonel (ret) Martha McSally for failing to answer the softball questions.

Despite the choreography dark horse Chief Master Sergeant (ret) Chuck Wooten, appeared to steal the show with his simple straightforward answers and no nonsense approach to the complex issues facing the residents of southern Arizona.

However, it was McSally’s answers that have piqued the interest of her former Air Force colleagues. McSally’s claim that her lawsuit against the Pentagon ended her Air Force career caused Airmen to scratch their heads and search their memories.

In 2001, McSally filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense, to end the policy which required servicewomen wear an abaya when traveling off base while stationed in Saudi Arabia. This issue only came to the forefront only when McSally herself wanted to travel to Riyad Saudi Arabia to see a friend; not because of some perceived injustice to all women, according to her fellow pilots. For her effort, McSally gained the support of former Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., who had worked to open fields to women in the military. She suffered no consequences according to her fellow Airmen.

In fact, she was promoted twice after the lawsuit, until she “hit the wall” after an unfortunate incident in which she reportedly insulted the people of Alabama during her pin on ceremony at Maxwell Air Force Base in 2006.

She filed the lawsuit against Rumsfeld in 2001, but was promoted to Lt Col and Colonel, “below the zone, meaning early, and appointed a squadron commander in 2004, according to one of her former colleagues.

McSally was promoted to Colonel and attended War College between 2006 and 2007, but after publicly referring to Alabaman local dignitaries as “toothless” she could never be promoted again (or allowed to command at the group level) and finally retired in 2010.

After her retirement she went to work as a professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

She only returned to Tucson, Arizona after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords announced her retirement forcing a Special Election in Congressional District 8 (CD8). She lost that race to Jesse Kelly, and worked to block his election by encouraging republicans to support Barber, who at the time was working for Giffords.

Fellow pilots have long questioned her claim that she is a fighter pilot, and have brushed it off in the past as a by-product of an uninformed press. However, now they question her decision to perpetuate the myth and loyalty to the team. A-10 pilots are attack pilots; not fighter pilots. Pilots say the difference lies in the culture which is built around the premise that the real fight is on the ground and the close air support mission is not about the pilot or the plane but rather on the Ground Troops they support.

It is that distinction in fact and refusal to correct the record, that leads them to question her latest claims that she was instrumental in saving the A-10. She claims that she sounded the clarion call to save the low and slow flying aircraft; not Ron Barber. The plane is continually at risk by an Air Force that values fighter jets over attack planes and as a result, the A-10 is perpetually on the Air Force’s chopping block.

When asked by radio talk show host James T. Harris, of 104.1 KQTH, McSally refused his request to lead the effort to save the plane. She implied that others were leading the effort and she was silently offering her support.

However, the silence by McSally was finally broken in an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star only after Barber’s efforts became public knowledge. Careful examination of her op-ed comments lead to further disappointment from her peers. She clearly was uniformed and merely repeating USAF propaganda without questioning or researching the truth, they say. This provided the southern Arizona community with misleading information about “pre-decisional” actions that fact were reality as evidenced by reductions in sustainment and modernization programs for the A-10.

The forum on Saturday left more questions and consternation in the A-10 community and left the majority of Republicans southern Arizona’s without an opportunity to hear from their candidates. Listen to the forum here.

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