Marines Relieve Osprey Commander, Allege Falsification
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2001 Marine officials have relieved the commander of the MV-22 Osprey squadron in New River Marine Corps Air Station, N.C., following allegations he ordered personnel to falsify records.
Marine Lt. Col. Odin F. Leberman "was relieved, I think it's fair to say, because the wing commander had lost confidence in his ability to lead, as had the [Marine Expeditionary Force] commander," said Lt. Gen. Fred McCorkle, deputy commandant for Marine Aviation. McCorkle spoke at the Pentagon Jan. 19.
Navy officials received an anonymous letter and a tape alleging that Leberman -- then-commander of Marine Medium Tilt-Rotor Squadron 204 -- had ordered subordinates to falsify maintenance records.
The experimental tilt-rotor aircraft is already under investigation by an independent commission. The commission will review the entire MV-22 program. The Marine Corps requested a delay in the decision to move the Osprey to full-rate production.
The investigation follows a crash in December that killed the 4-man crew. On April 8, 2000, an Osprey crashed in Arizona killing 19 Marines. The aircraft has been grounded since the second crash.
Marine officials said, based on all the information they have, there is no connection between the two accidents and the allegations of falsified maintenance records. "In fact, the anonymous letter ... specifically states that this was not what caused the previous two mishaps," McCorkle said.
The Marine Corps Inspector General Brig. Gen. Timothy F. Ghormley led the team that arrived at the squadron. They sequestered all maintenance records and are conducting an investigation. The eight-member team consists of five Marines, including Ghormley and two maintenance experts, one Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent, and two other civilian investigators. They arrived at MCAS New River Jan. 18.
Headquarters Marine Corps spokesmen said the investigation continues. "General Ghormley and his team have broad authority to take the investigation wherever they need to go. No deadline has been set to determine what happened and why."
Current plans call for the Marine Corps to purchase 360 MV- 22Bs, the Air Force to buy 50 CV-22A special operations aircraft and the Navy to purchase 48 HV-22Bs. The Air Force has two test Ospreys at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The aircraft are covered by the Marine Corps grounding order. The Air Force plans to start training crews for the aircraft in September 2003, with initial operating capability at Hurlburt Field, Fla., set for February 2005.
There are a total of 12 Osprey aircraft. The Marine Corps has eight, two test aircraft are at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. and the Air Force has the rest.
McCorkle also discussed the December accident. He said the cause of the crash appears to be that the aircraft experienced first a hydraulic failure and then software problems. He said the craft was in 100 percent fixed-wing mode when it crashed. The information came from the crash- survivable unit -- the black box -- aboard the aircraft.