Air Force pilot seeks honorable discharge

WASHINGTON (AP) — Air Force bomber pilot Kelly Flinn can appeal her general discharge but is unlikely to succeed, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said on Tuesday.
Flinn, who indicated through her attorney last week that she intended to challenge the discharge, can bring her case before an Air Force discharge review board. Air Force secretary Sheila Widnall accepted Flinn’s offer to take a general discharge instead of going before a court-martial for adultery, disobeying an order, lying and fraternization.
At a Pentagon briefing, Bacon said Flinn’s chances of having the general discharge upgraded to honorable discharge are “quite slim.”
Only 7.2 percent of Air Force personnel who appealed discharges in 1994 had their petitions granted. A year earlier, the figure was 7.9 percent, Bacon said.
The review board “looks for issues of equity and propriety. The burden of proof is on … (the petitioner) to establish the discharge was inequitable or improper,” according to an Air Force fact sheet.
Even if the review board upgrades Flinn’s discharge, it could not reinstate her in the active-duty Air Force. The review process would require Flinn or her attorney to appear before the board. Cases are processed in six to 18 months.
Although Flinn offered to accept the general discharge, she did so only after the Air Force made it clear it would not grant her an honorable discharge. The only alternative for her at that point was court-martial, which could have resulted in a prison sentence of up to 9 years.
Flinn’s attorney, Frank Spinner, indicated during the weekend that Flinn might have a better shot of having her discharge upgraded once Widnall leaves the top Air Force post to return to academia, as has been rumored. But neither Widnall nor a new Air Force secretary would have a role in overseeing the discharge review process, Bacon said.
Another factor working against Flinn is that the review board is made up entirely of uniformed Air Force officers. Interviews with officers in recent days have indicated overwhelming opposition within the ranks to her receiving an honorable discharge.
If Flinn chooses to appeal the review board decision, she would take her case before the Air Force Board of Military Corrections, made up of civilians.