Bushs National Guard years
Before you fall for Dems spin, here are the facts
What do you really know about George W. Bushs time in
the Air National Guard?
That he didnt show up for duty in Alabama? That he
missed a physical? That his daddy got him in?
News coverage of the presidents years in the Guard
has tended to focus on one brief portion of that time
to the exclusion of virtually everything else. So
just for the record, here, in full, is what Bush did:
The future president joined the Guard in May 1968.
Almost immediately, he began an extended period of
training. Six weeks of basic training. Fifty-three
weeks of flight training. Twenty-one weeks of
That was 80 weeks to begin with, and there were other
training periods thrown in as well. It was full-time
work. By the time it was over, Bush had served nearly
Not two years of weekends. Two years.
After training, Bush kept flying, racking up hundreds
of hours in F-102 jets. As he did, he accumulated
points toward his National Guard service requirements.
At the time, guardsmen were required to accumulate a
minimum of 50 points to meet their yearly obligation.
According to records released earlier this year, Bush
earned 253 points in his first year, May 1968 to May
1969 (since he joined in May 1968, his service
thereafter was measured on a May-to-May basis).
Bush earned 340 points in 1969-1970. He earned 137
points in 1970-1971. And he earned 112 points in
1971-1972. The numbers indicate that in his first four
years, Bush not only showed up, he showed up a lot.
Did you know that?
That brings the story to May 1972 the time that has
been the focus of so many news reports when Bush
deserted (according to anti-Bush filmmaker Michael
Moore) or went AWOL (according to Terry McAuliffe,
chairman of the Democratic National Committee).
Bush asked for permission to go to Alabama to work on
a Senate campaign. His superior officers said OK.
Requests like that werent unusual, says retired Col.
William Campenni, who flew with Bush in 1970 and 1971.
In 1972, there was an enormous glut of pilots,
Campenni says. The Vietnam War was winding down, and
the Air Force was putting pilots in desk jobs. In 72
or 73, if you were a pilot, active or Guard, and you
had an obligation and wanted to get out, no problem.
In fact, you were helping them solve their problem.
So Bush stopped flying. From May 1972 to May 1973, he
earned just 56 points not much, but enough to meet
Then, in 1973, as Bush made plans to leave the Guard
and go to Harvard Business School, he again started
showing up frequently.
In June and July of 1973, he accumulated 56 points,
enough to meet the minimum requirement for the
Then, at his request, he was given permission to go.
Bush received an honorable discharge after serving
five years, four months and five days of his original
six-year commitment. By that time, however, he had
accumulated enough points in each year to cover six
years of service.
During his service, Bush received high marks as a
A 1970 evaluation said Bush clearly stands out as a
top notch fighter interceptor pilot and was a
natural leader whom his contemporaries look to for
A 1971 evaluation called Bush an exceptionally fine
young officer and pilot who continually flies
intercept missions with the unit to increase his
proficiency even further. And a 1972 evaluation
called Bush an exceptional fighter interceptor pilot
Now, it is only natural that news reports questioning
Bushs service in The Boston Globe and The New York
Times, on CBS and in other outlets would come out
now. Democrats are spitting mad over attacks on John
Kerrys record by the group Swift Boat Veterans for
And, as it is with Kerry, its reasonable to look at a
candidates entire record, including his military
service or lack of it. Voters are perfectly able to
decide whether its important or not in November.
The Kerry camp blames Bush for the Swift boat
veterans attack, but anyone who has spent much time
talking to the Swifties gets the sense that they are
doing it entirely for their own reasons.
And it should be noted in passing that Kerry has
personally questioned Bushs service, while Bush has
not personally questioned Kerrys.
In April before the Swift boat veterans had said a
word Kerry said Bush has yet to explain to America
whether or not, and tell the truth, about whether he
showed up for duty. Earlier, Kerry said, Just
because you get an honorable discharge does not, in
fact, answer that question.
Now, after the Swift boat episode, the spotlight has
returned to Bush.
Thats fine. We should know as much as we can.
And perhaps someday Kerry will release more of his
military records as well.
Byron York is a White House correspondent for National Review. His column appears in The Hill each week. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org