Governor to again discuss 'friendly fire' incident

Thursday, December 23, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the state's top National Guard official agreed Wednesday to talk again with a pilot whose family says the military is wrongly trying to cut off his flight pay after he was involved in the bombing of friendly troops.

Blagojevich and Brig. Gen. Randal Thomas talked to Maj. Harry Schmidt of Springfield Wednesday and promised to discuss the matter next month.

Schmidt's family wrote a letter to the Defense Department this week alleging that the military was trying to cut $35,000 in annual flight pay they say was part of a deal Schmidt reached with the Air Force in June.

The Springfield-based 183rd Fighter Wing pilot was found guilty of dereliction of duty for the April 2002 mistaken bombing of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, killing four and wounding eight. He said he mistook their gunfire for an attack from Taliban fighters and maintained that his superiors never told him the Canadians would be conducting live-fire exercises near Kandahar airport.

The mission commander, Maj. William Umbach of Petersburg, received a letter of reprimand in 2003 and was allowed to retire from the Guard.

Schmidt's punishment was a severe reprimand and loss of a month's pay. He also agreed that he will never fly Air Force jets again, although he remains in the National Guard.

His father-in-law, Ervin Sudarek, a retired army lieutenant from Plover, Wis., wrote a letter to the Defense Department's inspector general claiming that the National Guard is trying to end the flight pay.

Tate-Nadeau said she did not know if the issue Sudarek raised was part of the deal.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: