Jones and MidshipmenCongressman Walter B. Jones (R, NC-3) took some time from his schedule to discuss his work on the House Armed Services Committee, and today–in a first for the Navy and Marine Corps blogosphere–we’re pleased to offer USNI Blog readers an opportunity to put a more human face on the leaders who spend their days crafting defense legislation.

In this interview, Congressman Jones–pictured on the right, visiting Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy–talks about his work with the Marine Corps MV-22 program, while, over on the Springboard, he chats about the QDR, superbases, the War, and, of course, his Marine Corps constituents from Camp Lejeune.

Congressman, you were elected to Congress in 1994, and you’ve been deeply engaged with the Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey program. Might you be so kind as to give our readers a review of your long history with the Osprey program?

Shortly after the unfortunate crash of the MV-22 on April 8, 2000, I attended a memorial service in honor of the pilots at MCAS New River. Representative Mike McIntyre, General Charles Krulak and Lieutenant General Fred McCorkle were also in attendance. I was seated directly behind Connie Gruber and her daughter Brooke, the family of Major Brooks Gruber. Across the aisle sat the family of Lieutenant Colonel John A. Brow. During the memorial, I could feel the hurt and pain this tragedy had on the families of these fallen heroes.

When the Marine Corps issued its press release on July 27, 2000 regarding the crash, I received a call from Connie Gruber expressing concern that her husband was being blamed for the accident. I was extremely empathetic to her concerns after attending the memorial and became very interested in the program. It was then that I began asking questions.

You’ve taken a very personal interest in the unfortunate April 8, 2000 MV-22 crash that killed 19 Marines, including one young pilot from North Carolina, Major Brooks S. Gruber. A few months later, when then Marine Commandant—and now National Security Advisor General James Jones—unveiled a memorial to those Marines, you were the only Congressional Representative who bothered to attend. You’re now working to exonerate the pilots on that unfortunate flight, Major Gruber and Lt. Col. John A. Brow. Why have you put so much energy into understanding this incident, in particular?

My passion for this issue is directly related to my experience at the memorial service. It is difficult to meet a child of one of our fallen Marines and know that they are going to live the rest of her life with the sentiment that her father was to blame for the deaths of several other Marines.

Have you made any progress in exonerating the two pilots?

Absolutely. This has been an almost nine year effort with help from a large number of people who are familiar with the V-22 history and process. I have had the pleasure of working with engineers, experts, pilots, and numerous others who have assisted me in this endeavor. The United States Marine Corps has included the 17 facts from my Memorandum for the Record in the Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) of the late Lieutenant Colonel Brow and Major Brooks. I have also introduced legislation, H. Res 698, that includes the language from the Memorandum. I will continue to encourage the Navy to accept the Memorandum and to amend the JAGMAN investigation and the AMB report.

Some bloggers, like’s Jamie McIntyre, characterize your efforts to exonerate the pilots as a merely symbolic “quixotic quest”. Will your work on exonerating the two dead pilots have any lasting, longer-term impact upon the MV-22 program or the wider Marine Corps culture?

It will not have any impact on the program. The program is safe and moving forward. This is important to the history of the Osprey, but more importantly, to the families who lost loved ones and the two pilots, now deceased, who are not here to defend themselves.

Do you ever worry that the publicity that surrounds your work to expunge the records of these two Marines will overshadow the less heralded—but quite worthy—work you’ve done for soldiers, sailors and veterans?

I do not. Issues dealing with specific individuals are very different than other legislative efforts. I am very passionate about our service members and their families and never regret bringing their courageous stories to the nation’s attention. In fact, these stories often provide the basis for legislative actions that I pursue.

In my opinion, Congress can often become too focused on programs and policies that it forgets about the people who are affected by those same programs and policies.

For a Representative who isn’t even a ranking member of a single Armed Services Subcommittee this year, you’ve sponsored an enormous amount of pro-national security community legislation in the 111th Congress. A partial list includes the Military Retiree Survivor Comfort Act (H.R. 613), the Fallen Hero Commemoration Act (H.R. 269), the Disabled Veterans Insurance Act of 2009 (H.R. 612), the Service Members First-Time Homebuyer Relief Act of 2009 (H.R. 2398), the PTSD/TBI Guaranteed Review for Heroes Act (H.R. 1701). Why—and how—are you so productive this year?

After 15 years in Congress, my colleagues on both sides of the aisle know that I am dedicated and focused. If I come forward with legislation, it is because I believe it is the right thing to do. I have a very strong sense of right and wrong and seek to do what’s right for our military.

Back to the Osprey program. In a May 1, 2003 Osprey-related comment to the News and Observer, you said “If the Marines say it can be done, it can be done….I trust the Marines to make certain it is safe and does the job.” Is the Osprey safe?

I believe it is safe now. The MV-22 Osprey has come a long way since its beginning.

Does it do the job?

The best people to answer that question are the users. To date, I have not heard that it is incapable of performing the missions that have been assigned to it.

Posted by Defense Springboard in Aviation, Marine Corps, Navy, Policy

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  • The post above (a link to my real-life bio) was left by some blogosphere “friends”, not me. To that poster, I say, “Grow up”.

    The steady stream of this kind of blog outing “harassment” by those who harbor ideological viewpoints opposed to my own is pretty rude–if not career-ending. My blogging is done on my own time, with my own resources. I make no money from this extracurricular work, and as one of the few guys out there in the defense-cogitating business who isn’t taking money from contractors or anything…the career cost of expressing a frank, honest and unfiltered viewpoint is high enough already.

    It’s not like I’m rolling in dough. I do this because I love the Navy and Marine Corps and…I think this sort of dialogue helps make the entire nation stronger. It’s not something that helps the career.

    An academic–a contract academic, no less–doesn’t make much. When I’m granted a contract to teach, I make far, far less than the men and women who study with me, and making ends meet is, at times, bloody difficult. Childish “blog” outings (or, for that matter, childish change of command speeches) on the part of certain folks–who I know should know better, for goodness sake–just make things in my life even more exciting.

    But, hey…Keep throwing yer bricks, kids! I stand by what I write, and, hey, if you don’t like what I write and can’t engage beyond blog “outings”, threatening emails, and “outraged” letters to my employer, well, that’s kinda sad. You can, my friendly “outer”, do better. I challenge you, in the future, to do so.

    But not in this venue. I’d ask ADMIN that this outing poster get a permanent ban.

  • Blogging Friend

    But…you have no problem calling Naval officers out by name who did nothing to you…and continuing such harrassment in your blog, in your comments, and now here in these comments.

    If you don’t like it…move on. Or stop. An apology to those you insulted, the COs of SAN ANTONIO and WHIDBEY ISLAND to start with, would be a good start.

    Finally, I’m bothered that someone like you, who seeks to quiet Naval officers who post by name with intimidation tactics is posting here at USNI. Doesn’t speak well for the institution.

  • Byron

    Concur with SB. I don’t agree with him, but I respect his right to say it and in such a manner that it doesn’t endanger his means of living

  • Bothered by the hypocrisy

    He’d probably get less grief if he has the same respect for others, and their means of living, that he demands for himself.

    His attacks on serving Naval officers, while statistically few, has served as an example for everyone else…

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    I completely agree.

    It’s about the ideas, the history, the interpetation, the experience and the different points of view.

    Dolts who pull such *&%#@! only demonstrate their inadequacy to discuss among the grown ups.

    I don’t care if anybody agrees with me. I often learn the most from those who agree the least. I have no pretensions to infallibility. And precious little tolerance for those who do.

    As for the offender, I request admin bid him “begone, varlet”,

  • I can deal with harrassment–I do my thing and “D@#n the torpedoes,” OK? But in this instance somebody snatched my online identity and used some info–info that isn’t widely disseminated–to sleeze the post by the Admins here.

    That, ah, “tactical innovation” pushes the limit. And, I might add, it doesn’t reflect well upon their cause.

    Thanks Grandpa Bluewater and Byron.

  • Springboard,

    We take your anonymity seriously…point of fact, we promised to do our best to protect it when you began blogging for us.

    Your ideas? Your ‘questioned’ stance?

    We have no opinion.

    Your adversaries? If they can come out and express their opinion without hijacking your email or revealing your identity, we respect and encourage their opinion.

    However, we are decidedly against ANYONE hiijacking an email or masking their identity when it is a direct attack against another blogger.

    We know that bloggers have their own reasons for protecting their identity, and we believe that the core of this is that they want to speak freely and honestly. Let’s not dilute this.