The San Diego Union-Tribune

September 15, 2001

3 Marine officers guilty of falsifying reports on Osprey

Men can retire with no loss of military
benefits

By OTTO KREISHER 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON -- The former commander of the Osprey training squadron, his immediate superior and an officer under his command were found guilty of dereliction of duty for trying to improve the controversial aircraft's image by falsifying its readiness reports, the Marine Corps announced yesterday.

Lt. Col. Odin F. Leberman, the squadron commander who ordered his
Marines to doctor the maintenance records, and Col. James E. Schleining, his direct superior, received career-ending punitive letters of reprimand.

Capt. Christopher Ramsey, the assistant maintenance officer in the Osprey
squadron, received no punishment for his role in falsifying the documents
because of "mitigating circumstances," said a Marine spokesman. 

Five other Marine officers were cleared of a variety of charges in closed
hearings conducted by Lt. Gen. Raymond P. Ayres, the commanding general
of Marine Forces in the Atlantic.

Ayres' action officially ends a process that started last fall when a Marine in
the Osprey squadron complained to Pentagon officials that Leberman had
told them they had "to lie" about the aircraft's poor reliability to save it from
cancellation.

The tilt-rotor aircraft was facing a crucial production decision after a history of poor reliability and safety. The decision on full production was postponed
when one of the squadron's MV-22s crashed in December, the third in a
string of fatal accidents that have killed 30 men.

Although a Pentagon inspector general's investigation led to charges against
the eight officers, it concluded that the effort to doctor the records played no
part in the crashes.

Ayres handled the array of comparatively serious charges under Article 15,
the lowest level of punitive proceedings under the Uniform Code of Military
Justice, instead of at a court-martial.

Under the process, which is considered noncriminal, Ayres reviewed the
evidence against the officers, listened to their rebuttal and supporting
information, then rendered a judgment and, if warranted, assigned punishment.

He found Leberman guilty of dereliction of duty in that he knew of the
falsification, and guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer for "wrongfully and
dishonorably" ordering that illegal act. He was acquitted of making a false
official statement.

Schleining, commander of the Marine air group at New River, N.C., Marine
Corps Air Station, that included the Osprey squadron, also was found guilty
of dereliction of duty in that he should have known of the false records. He
was acquitted of violating a lawful order by failing to report the records
distortion.

The punitive letters of reprimand Ayres issued to the two officers, although
minor compared to the punishment they could have received at a
court-martial, virtually assures that they will never be promoted or receive
another command. But it will not affect their benefits if, as expected, they
retire.

Ayres dismissed dereliction of duty charges against Maj. Gen. Dennis T.
Krupp, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Airwing, and similar charges
against two senior maintenance officers in his staff and a warrant officer in
Leberman's maintenance department.

Although this ends the investigations of wrongdoing, the future of the Osprey
program remains in doubt. The contractors and the Marines have proposed
changes to correct the aircraft's reliability and safety problems. But Pete
Aldridge, the Pentagon acquisition executive, has not indicated whether he will accept that plan and allow the program to continue.