Fred Lewis wants to fight Saddam Hussein.
He’s a sergeant in the Army Reserve, a paratrooper attached to the 82nd Airborne Division. He served two tours with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon and Israel.
But before Lewis, 43, a Rancho Bernardo photographer, can fight Saddam, he’s up against an even more daunting foe:
“I’m fighting the most deadly opponent in the world: Army bureaucracy.”
Lewis said he began calling the Army Reserve headquarters in St. Louis just after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August. He says the answer was always the same: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.
In December, he started making at least one call a day. Finally, he says, a clerk leveled with him: there’s trouble with your records in the computer.
Lewis says his problem is that he is not part of any local Reserve unit. He is an Individual Mobilization Augmentee.
Before things went rowdy in the Middle East, the Department of Defense decided to cut back on the 82nd Airborne, transferring Lewis and others to new units.
But, before that could happen, the 82nd was deployed. The Army Reserve Personnel Center can only transfer Lewis after the 82nd returns.
In Army terms, Lewis is SOL (Simply Out of Luck) because DOD cut his IMA, and ARPERCEN can’t help him.
A spokeswoman at the Pentagon declined to spend time researching Lewis’ case for me. She noted that there is a war going on (no kidding).
But she said the scenario described by Lewis is possible: “This is the Army.”
Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-San Diego) has promised to try to help Lewis get back to his outfit.
With each passing day, it looks more likely that the 82nd will soon “drop in” on Kuwait City to fight the Iraqi Army close-up. To put it mildly, Lewis is increasingly agitated:
“I’m a soldier without an Army. I’m in free-fall.”
The War in San Diego
* Downtown panhandlers have incorporated the war into their pitches.
One is asking for change to buy a bottle because he just learned a loved one was killed in the fighting.
* Security has been tightened at the downtown courthouse. Employees are reacting like San Diegans.
First employee: “Man what a hassle!” Second employee: “Totally.”
* War or peace, inter-service rivalry goes on.
Master gunnery sergeant at Camp Pendleton blocking reporters’ access to Camp Pendleton, suggesting they try the nearest Air Force Base:
“The Air Force, they’re so lax, all you need is a pulse and heart rate. You can quote me.”
* Part of Encinitas lost power for an hour Monday night. Homeowners complained quickly and loudly.
“People were furious that they couldn’t watch the war on CNN,” says an SDG&E; service rep.
* Bumper sticker at Camp Pendleton: “Just Say No To War.”
Inside the car, a Marine wife and two children.
* State Sen. Wadie Deddeh (D-Bonita), an Iraqi-American, is receiving 24-hour protection from the state Department of Justice. As a precaution. No threats yet.
Politician on the Move
Right place, wrong time.
Bob Schuman, stockbroker and former chairman of the county Republican Central Committee, wants to run for the 5th District seat on the San Diego City Council.
When it looked like the recall election would be in the old district, Schuman moved from Bay Park (new) to Mira Mesa (old).
When the council decided to hold the election in the new district, Schuman moved back to Bay Park the next day.
A problem: He moved too late to meet a requirement that a candidate must be a district resident for 30 days before the end of the filing period.
To qualify, Schuman would have had to move and re-register to vote the day before the council decision.
He goes to court Thursday asking a judge to lift the 30-day rule.