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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 13, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 33
Decorated Air Force officer sues to block DADT discharge
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Decorated Air Force officer sues to block DADT discharge

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

One of the highest-ranking military officers, Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, investigated for violating the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) policy, filed suit August 11 in an effort to block the Air Force from discharging him.

Fehrenbach's lawyers filed a request for a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court in Idaho, arguing a discharge will cause him irreparable harm and that the government cannot prove that his continued service hinders 'morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion.'

The motion is one of the first cases to use a legal line of reasoning established in a 2008 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in the case of an Air Force Major who challenged the Gay ban.

In addition, Fehrenbach and his lawyers are asking Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley to intervene and overrule the Air Force Personnel Board, which has recommended his discharge.

In early 2008, just eight days before he was to deploy in support of the war in Afghanistan, Fehrenbach, a decorated Air Force flight officer, was informed he was under investigation on charges of violating DADT, the U.S. military's discriminatory ban prohibiting Gays and Lesbians from serving openly.

He was placed on desk duty at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho. Now, just a year from completing his 20th year in the military - entitling him to a pension and retirement benefits - Fehrenbach, 40, lives in fear of being discharged under DADT and losing said benefits.

He would be among the highest-ranking service members discharged under the policy.

"In the two years that I've been sitting at my desk rather than inside my jet, I've offered to deploy numerous times," Fehrenbach said. "I'm ready, willing, and able to deploy tomorrow, but I'm barred from deployment because of this unjust, discriminatory policy."

"The evidence is that he is a benefit to the Air Force and to his unit," said M. Andrew Woodmansee, co-counsel for Fehrenbach, along with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit group representing Gays in the military.

"Why and how the hell do we end up firing our best and brightest when we're fighting in two wars?" asked Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "If Secretary Donley does not step in, this nation will lose a servicemember worth $25 million in training whose skill sets are desperately needed today."

The case comes as the Log Cabin Republicans await a ruling in their constitutional challenge to DADT in a California federal court. A ruling in the group's favor would suspend the military's ability to discharge troops under the policy.

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