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Pilot Is Threatened With Discharge for Refusing to Lead Women into Combat

May 18, 1995

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A Navy helicopter pilot who said his religious beliefs would keep him from leading women in his unit into combat fought to stay in the Navy on Thursday.

A board of three Navy captains convened an administrative hearing to determine if Lt. Cmdr. Kenneth A. Carkhuff, based with an anti-submarine unit at Mayport Naval Station, should be discharged.

The 13-year Navy veteran was accused of failure to support and carry out Pentagon policies regarding women in combat.

``I think the Bible clearly teaches that we should not subject women to violence,″ Carkhuff said in an interview. ``I think combat is probably the most extreme violence one can undergo in society.″

Cmdr. Douglas Beeks, Carkhuff’s squadron leader, testified that in August, Carkhuff told him that, after months of consideration and prayer, he had decided he was opposed to the policy allowing women to go into combat.

At the time, Carkhuff’s helicopter detachment, which had two women pilots, was preparing for possible assignment in the military operation in Haiti.

Beeks testified he told Carkhuff that Navy officers could not pick and choose their assignments. Carkkuff was replaced as leader of the detachment.

Beeks and Capt. Michael Orfini, who succeeded Beeks as commander, said they never considered letting Carkhuff lead the detachment after his views were known. They feared he might put himself or others in danger to protect the women.

Carkhuff submitted a letter of resignation in September but later withdrew it and said he would fight to stay in the Navy.

``He said, `I’m not going out the back door of the Navy. If all the homosexuals are back in the Navy, they are letting me back in,‴ Orfini said.

Stephen Gallagher, Carkhuff’s attorney, contended the Navy is trying to suppress what it sees as politically incorrect speech.

``The worst possible thing that could happen to an officer is to come down on the wrong side of political correctness,″ Gallagher said. ``It is not career-enhancing to express a view.″

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