A follow-up to this story is available here.
A video cued to JQP today by several airmen at Travis Air Force Base chronicles a physical confrontation between a group of uniformed airmen and a retired member of the community. Whatever happened here, it turned an important family ceremony into a disgraceful spectacle.
In the 50-second clip, which was reportedly taken at the retirement ceremony for Master Sergeant Chuck Roberson of the 749th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, three NCOs — including an unnamed Chief Master Sergeant — apprehend retired Senior Master Sergeant Oscar Rodriguez, reportedly a former Honor Guard member respected by many in the squadron, and remove him from the ceremony. Rodriguez had reportedly been invited there by Roberson to give a presentation.
As participants in the ceremony fold a flag, we see an NCO approach a man in a suit — apparently Rodriguez — standing behind a member of the color guard in a business suit. They seem to be exchanging words, though the exchange is inaudible. At some point, Rodriguez begins reciting a prepared presentation about the flag and is then physically forced away from the proceedings by the NCO, who is soon joined by two others. Rodriguez continues his recitation, raising his voice higher as he is removed continually further away. He can be heard bellowing out his words from a distance as he is presumably ejected from the premises.
Take a look:
Some are saying the incident is a result of “bad blood” going back some years between Rodriguez and the current commanding officer of the 749th. That commander is said to have barred Rodriguez from the ceremony, and ordered that he be removed after showing up anyway. There is undoubtedly much more to the story on all sides than meets the eye.
A public post on a Facebook page under the name “John Huffington,” apparently made by a friend of the man retiring, offered the following as it shared a copy of the video:
“This is disturbing at my friend[‘s] retirement today and the gentlemen that you are going to see in the video gets assaulted as a guest of my friend. He speaks the words of the color and strip[es] as they fold the flag. The squadron commander and Oscar have issues from years ago [and] the commander said he did not want him in the building nor saying the words to the flag. Remember he is my friends guest. So instead of letting him finish what he started saying he had his trolls assault him dragging him out of the building as you can [hear] him still saying the words to the flag. And you can [hear] Joe saying “do it do it.” Theater is full of family and guests and fellow Air Force members. This could have been handled in a much better way instead of tainting my friends retirement. This is how we treat our fellow Air Force veterans. Yes I’m pissed off.”
It’s not clear what happened here, and we’re reaching out to the Travis publicity staff to inquire (while reasonably expecting little useful in response), but in the meantime we’ll simply agree that if this was about some personal dispute between people, dishonoring the sanctity of an airman’s retirement ceremony was a poor response. If that’s really the story, the judgment of the commander and his evidently obedient enforcers is up for review.
This looks like little more than schoolyard thuggery at the expense of an Air Force family that paid its dues and deserved a dignified moment. Whatever the backstory, which is undoubtedly interesting, there’s no justification for this moment being tarnished.
Can’t help but note the connection here with the obedience culture we’ve been documenting recently on these pages. These NCOs, including an E-9, appear to have engaged in unlawful acts under the guise of following orders.
More when we know it.
Update (21:20 EST): the following comment was provided by Stephan Sila on Facebook. he claims to have first-hand knowledge as a participant in the ceremony. His account, assuming it’s true, is explosive (and entertaining).
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