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New York Post

The Price Of Closing Vieques

March 16, 2001
Copyright © 2001 New York Post Holdings, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The U.S. Navy has another embarrassment on its hands: This week's aerial bombing accident in Kuwait that killed six people - five American soldiers and an army officer from New Zealand.

This is the second time in less than a month that Navy fliers have proven less than proficient in carrying out their duties. Earlier, bombs dropped from carrier-based aircraft during an attack on Iraqi air-defense radars fell far off their targets, endangering the attacking planes and any others on no-fly-zone duty over Iraq.

It's not entirely clear what caused the bombing tragedy in Kuwait.

But the father of one of the GI's who was killed made an excellent point earlier this week: "There's a problem somewhere in our training, and I think we need to find out what the problem is and get it solved before we lose more people," said Mike Freligh of Gosnell, Ark.

There is one common element in the two incidents: Both involved aviators who had been denied the usual amount of naval bomb-range training on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques - because of political considerations.

Here in New York, Gov. Pataki and Sens. Schumer and Clinton - among others - are loudly calling for the Vieques range permanently to be closed before an alternative is located.

Down in Arkansas, a grieving Mike Freligh has a wider view. Again: "We need to get [this] solved before we lose more people."

Think of it as Vieques, put in perspective.

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