San Diego Union-Tribune

August 18, 2001

Marine general, 7 officers face Osprey-related hearing
    Charges include dereliction of duty


By OTTO KREISHER 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON -- Eight Marine officers, including a two-star general, will
face a punitive hearing on charges stemming from allegations that records of
the Osprey aircraft were falsified to protect the accident-marred program, the Marines said yesterday.

Charges include failure to obey orders, making false official statements,
dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer. Despite the
seriousness of the offenses, the officers will face a noncriminal hearing rather
than court martial.

The most serious charges are pending against Lt. Col. Odin F. Leberman, the
former commander of the Osprey squadron, and two officers in his
maintenance department, Capt. Christopher Ramsey and Chief Warrant
Officer Matthew W. Smith. They are charged with sending their superiors
false maintenance records, "wrongfully and with intent to deceive."

Leberman and Ramsey, the squadron assistant maintenance officer, also are
charged with conduct unbecoming an officer in that they allegedly "wrongfully
and dishonorably ordered the Marines under their command to falsify" the
maintenance records.

All three also are charged with dereliction of duty.

Maj. Gen, Dennis T. Krupp, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft
Wing, which includes the Osprey squadron, was charged with dereliction of
duty "in that he allegedly knew or should have known of the suspected false
MV-22 maintenance records," the Marine statement said.

Four other officers senior to Leberman are charged with failure to obey a
lawful order by allegedly not reporting the record alteration, "which they
observed."

They are: Col. Laurin P. Eck, former assistant manager of the Osprey
program; Col. James F. Schleining, commander of Marine Aircraft Group 26; Col. Phillip L. Newman and Lt. Col. Demetrice M. Babb, officers in the air wing's maintenance department. The last three also were charged with
dereliction of duty.

Failure to obey orders, making false official statements, dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming an officer are considered serious offenses in the Marine Corps. Any one of those offenses could have warranted a court martial.

Instead, Lt. Gen. Raymond P. Ayres will conduct hearings on the eight
officers under Article 15 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, which is
not considered a criminal process.

A week ago, Ayres, commanding general of Marine Forces in the Atlantic,
informed the officers of his intent to hold the Article 15 hearings on them.
They could have refused to submit to the hearing, which would have required
Ayres to start court martial proceedings.

All accepted the offer, the Marine statement said.

Although the penalties that Ayres can impose under Article 15 are quite
limited, a finding of guilt against any of the officers on any charge would
effectively end their careers.

The Osprey, an experimental aircraft that can hover like a helicopter and fly
like a jet, has long been regarded by Marine leaders as an essential
component of their modern air fleet. But the $40 billion program has been
plagued by crashes and cost overruns.