National Guard Offers Explanation

National Guard Offers Explanation National Guard officials were at the Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School on Monday night, offering their first explanation on why a fighter jet strafed the school last Wednesday.

The Guard now says its preliminary theory is that the F-16 jet's cannon opened fire prematurely as the fighter was climbing upward at 8,000 feet. The 25 shells went straight up in the air and then came back to ground at the school.

Law enforcement officials were able to recover 13 out of the 25 bullets and say the remaining ones were lodged inside the roof or in the ground.

A custodian at the school knew where the bullets had gone. She was inside the building during the incident.

"It was a little frightening," said Sue Stadler.

Stadler was finishing up her custodial work last Wednesday night when tiles began falling in this hallway.

"I saw some holes in the ceiling, and a little cut in the carpet and I thought it was vandals so I called my boss and we called police," said Stadler.

Residents angry that the Air National Guard F-16 strafed the school last week fired back at the military Monday night, demanding it cease live-fire operations at a nearby target range.

Maj. Gen. David Wherley, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, said no disciplinary action has been taken against the pilot, whose fitness to fly is still being evaluated.

At the community meeting called to discuss the incident, residents and township officials sharply criticized the military, demanding assurances it would not happen again. "The fact that it hit a school is terrifying," said Becky Myers, who was holding her 8-month-old daughter Emily as she spoke. "Little Egg Harbor Intermediate is not out in the middle of nowhere. It could have hit across the street and gone through somebody's living room while their little kid was sleeping."

"It's very, very scary," added Kevin O'Rourke, whose son attends the school. "The kids showed up in class today and saw holes in the ceiling." Township Committeeman Arthur Midgley called the incident "an outrage, totally unacceptable." He called for the military to change its flight patterns in the area.

Brig. Gen. Maria Falca-Dodson, deputy adjutant general for the New Jersey National Guard, said the military shares residents' anxiety.

"We, too, find this unacceptable," she said. "We are as concerned as you are. We, too, have residents that are members of this unit and their children go to the schools here."

She estimated it would be at least 30 days before the investigation is completed.

Students returned to the Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School for the first time Monday since jetfighter incident.

The school was closed for the annual state teachers convention and no one was injured when the F-16 peppered the parking lot and roof with 20 millimeter rounds on Wednesday night.

The plane involved belonged to the 113th Wing of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, based at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

The military has temporarily halted operations at the Warren Grove range, where the pilot was supposed to be aiming at a stationary target on the ground about 3 ½ miles from the school.

Several residents were angry that the military did not notify the town of the incident, but instead responded to inquiries after damage was noticed at the school.

"As soon as they determined the weapon had fired, they stopped training and returned to Andrews and began the process of figuring out where those bullets went," said Wherley. "There was no way at 10 o'clock at night to figure out who do you call and who do you not call."

Wherley told the Today Show's Matt Lauer on Monday that the any information from the investigation would be released to the public almost immediately.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg on Friday called for a Washington D.C. National Guard unit to halt all operations in New Jersey until it determines how and why the jet shot at the school.

Calling the actions of the pilot "totally incomprehensible," Lautenberg, D-N.J., asked the District of Columbia Air National Guard to suspend all training operations over New Jersey skies until an investigation into Wednesday's mishap is completed.

The senator also demanded a "guarantee that nothing like this can ever happen again."

Article continues below


Author: Copyright 2004 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A Budding Business

Whole Hearted

Fully Focused

Giant Steps Forward

Timber Creek’s Leary heads to Illinois

Defying History

Names to Know

The King of Rambling

6 Tips on a Restart for Your Finances

Staying the Course

Getting Personal

On the Home Front

Positive Energy

On the Move

Colleges and COVID-19