The airfield is the first impressive site you see when driving into Meridian from the west.
The 186th Air Refueling Wing was established in 1939 and has had several missions since its beginning. The most recent is air-to-air refueling, a vital part of national defense. Before that, it was tactical reconnaissance.
A report issued by the Air Force Inspector General in December 2002 showed substantiated charges of falsifying documents, failure to complete required training, illegal operation of a liquor store and top officials making and allowing racist comments, or allowing racial slurs to be used ay the 186th Air Refueling Wing. The accusations go to the top.
Col. Joe H. Bryant (Ret.) pushed for an investigation into what he saw as a pattern of wrongdoing at the 186th. He was a pilot with the unit who says he was forced out in 2002.
But as far back as 1996, Lt. Col. Stuart Kenney, now a captain and pilot for Delta Airlines based in Atlanta, alleged wrongdoing of top officials of the 186th. He made complaints then that top officials forced unit members to sign undated letters of resignation and inappropriate management practices. Those complaints were heard by the Mississippi Guard's adjutant general, James Garner, who appointed Col. James Bridges to look into the allegations. The Guard found no substance to the allegations. The Air Force did find substance, but no action was taken. Kenney said he believes the investigation was biased and half- hearted.
Years later, Bryant made some of the same charges, alleging several violations by four top officials. The Inspector General of the Air Force investigated 42 allegations. Many were not substantiated, but 16 allegations were proven. Among them:
- 1. The commander made and/or condoned discriminatory actions or comments that the commander was derelict in his duty by failing to accomplish required training.
- 2. That the commander was derelict by condoning false official statements that training was done when it was not.
- 3. That the commander was derelict in his duty by cheating on professional military education exams or research papers.
- 4. That the commander was derelict in the performance of his duty by wrongfully operating a retail liquor store at Key Field.
- 5. That the commander of the 186th Operations Group abused his authority by requiring signed, undated letters of resignation from186th Air Wing pilots.
A statement Monday by Maj. Gen. James Lipscomb, adjutant general of the Mississippi National Guard, stated that he turned the allegations over to the Air Force Inspector General shortly after he was appointed to his current post. Lipscomb said the report is now under review. A news release from the general's office contained the following statements.
"When my review is complete, I will take the necessary disciplinary actions. I wish to reach some resolution in this matter as quickly as possible. However, I will not hastily make those decisions because any disciplinary actions will affect personnel, careers and families," said Major Lipscomb. "It would be inappropriate for me to comment about the allegations or personnel involved in the investigation. These are personnel and disciplinary matters and there are privacy concerns."