Best of 2021: Stories that impacted Wright-Patterson

Wright-Patterson Air Force has been described by one advocate as the “intellectual capital of the U.S. Air Force.”

Home to several significant missions responsible for equipping and arming Airmen and Space Force Guardians now and into the future, Wright-Patterson remains Ohio’s largest single-site employer, home to 32,000 military and civilian employees.

Here are some of the more significant news highlights from the base (and affecting the base) in the past year.

Former AFRL commander faces historic court-martial

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Maj. Gen. William Cooley, who was removed as Air Force Research Laboratory commander in January 2020, gave the keynote presentation at the Air Force Institute of Technology centennial symposium on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in November 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)

Maj. Gen. William Cooley, who was removed as Air Force Research Laboratory commander in January 2020, gave the keynote presentation at the Air Force Institute of Technology centennial symposium on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in November 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)

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Maj. Gen. William Cooley, who was removed as Air Force Research Laboratory commander in January 2020, gave the keynote presentation at the Air Force Institute of Technology centennial symposium on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in November 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)

Former Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Commander Maj. Gen. William Cooley is the first Air Force general to face court-martial.

In April, Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., commander of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), acting as the Court-Martial Convening Authority, referred Cooley to stand trial on one charge of sexual assault with three specifications, under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Bunch relieved Cooley of his duties in January 2020.

The court-martial has been scheduled for Jan. 10 at Wright-Patterson, where both AFRL and AFMC are headquartered.

>> FORMER AFRL commander at Wright-Patterson faces court-martial

Dayton sues Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Department of Defense

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Wright Patterson Force Base crews collect drinking water samples from a field in Fairborn where a jet crashed in 1997. The base sampled 22 wells in nearby neighborhoods for a group of contaminants known as PFAS. Contributed

Wright Patterson Force Base crews collect drinking water samples from a field in Fairborn where a jet crashed in 1997. The base sampled 22 wells in nearby neighborhoods for a group of contaminants known as PFAS. Contributed

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Wright Patterson Force Base crews collect drinking water samples from a field in Fairborn where a jet crashed in 1997. The base sampled 22 wells in nearby neighborhoods for a group of contaminants known as PFAS. Contributed

The city of Dayton formally filed a drinking water contamination lawsuit against Wright-Patterson and the U.S. Department of Defense in May, seeking damages of up to $300 million.

“The city absolutely did not want to file this lawsuit,” Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein said at the time. “We’ve invested more than four years trying to get (Wright-Patterson) and the DoD to agree to take steps to mitigate ongoing contamination coming from the base into the city’s Mad River Wellfield and the aquifer that supplies those wells.”

In mid-August, the city’s lawsuit against Wright-Patterson was transferred to a federal court in South Carolina. Recent available filings on that court’s docket are August filings noting the transfer and assignment to a judge in South Carolina.

>>Why Dayton says it had to file $300M lawsuit against Wright-Patt over water contamination

False alarm leads to four-hour lockdown at Wright-Patterson

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Col. Patrick MIller, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, addresses the media in a 2 a.m. press conference Sept. 10, 2021 outside the Hope Hotel. A four-hour investigation found no active shooter on the base after an initial report. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Col. Patrick MIller, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, addresses the media in a 2 a.m. press conference Sept. 10, 2021 outside the Hope Hotel. A four-hour investigation found no active shooter on the base after an initial report. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

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Col. Patrick MIller, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, addresses the media in a 2 a.m. press conference Sept. 10, 2021 outside the Hope Hotel. A four-hour investigation found no active shooter on the base after an initial report. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

Shortly after 9 p.m. Sept. 9, two people approached the security desk at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) at Wright-Patterson. They informed a security officer they thought they heard one gunshot.

What followed was an intense four-hour search through, and clearing of, the three-story, 850,000-square-foot NASIC complex, a big, secure structure with a 24-hour workforce that defies quick or easy walk-throughs.

In the end, no shooter was found, no one was hurt, arrested or detained, base leaders said. And it is believed that the report of a gunshot was made in good faith, Col. Patrick Miller, commander of the base’s 88th Air Base Wing, said at the time.

>> What happened: 4-hour search finds no threat after report of shooter at Wright-Patt

Air Force discharges 27 who refuse vaccine

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FILE - Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Nov. 17, 2021, in Washington. The Air Force has discharged 27 people for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making them what officials believe are the first service members to be removed for disobeying the mandate to get the shots. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Credit: Alex Brandon

FILE - Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Nov. 17, 2021, in Washington. The Air Force has discharged 27 people for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making them what officials believe are the first service members to be removed for disobeying the mandate to get the shots. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Credit: Alex Brandon

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FILE - Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Nov. 17, 2021, in Washington. The Air Force has discharged 27 people for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making them what officials believe are the first service members to be removed for disobeying the mandate to get the shots. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Credit: Alex Brandon

Credit: Alex Brandon

In mid-December, the Air Force has discharged 27 service members for refusing to receive a COVID vaccine, marking the first service members to be involuntarily discharged for not obeying the order.

The Air Force gave its forces until Nov. 2 to get the vaccine, and thousands either refused or sought an exemption.

>> Those refusing vaccine subject to discharge, Air Force says

Ohio works to make itself more welcoming to military families, vets

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Gov. Mike DeWine signed Ohio Senate Bill 7 in January 2020 during a ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The bill mandates state occupational licensing agencies issue temporary licenses and certificates to members of the military and spouses who are licensed in another jurisdiction and have moved to Ohio for military duty. From left to right are Brianna McKinnon, a military spouse and special education teacher, Rep. Rick Perales, Sen. Bob Hackett and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Gov. Mike DeWine signed Ohio Senate Bill 7 in January 2020 during a ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The bill mandates state occupational licensing agencies issue temporary licenses and certificates to members of the military and spouses who are licensed in another jurisdiction and have moved to Ohio for military duty. From left to right are Brianna McKinnon, a military spouse and special education teacher, Rep. Rick Perales, Sen. Bob Hackett and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. LISA POWELL / STAFF

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Gov. Mike DeWine signed Ohio Senate Bill 7 in January 2020 during a ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The bill mandates state occupational licensing agencies issue temporary licenses and certificates to members of the military and spouses who are licensed in another jurisdiction and have moved to Ohio for military duty. From left to right are Brianna McKinnon, a military spouse and special education teacher, Rep. Rick Perales, Sen. Bob Hackett and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. LISA POWELL / STAFF

For military families, retirees and veterans, Ohio leaders want the Buckeye State to be the heart of it all.

Quality of life, a lower cost of living, employment and education opportunities and more beckon, state leaders say. And legislators have made efforts to pass bills that the Department of Defense says is important to military families moving to a new duty assignment.

>> Buckeye State’s message to military families and retirees: Come home

Wright-Patterson-based 445th Airlift Wing has role in Afghanistan evacuation

As the 20-year war in Afghanistan arrived at its final hours in August, the Air Force Reserve Command confirmed that the 445th Airlift Wing, based at Wright-Patterson, played a role in the withdrawal and evacuation of Americans and Afghan nationals who allied with the U.S. in the past two decades.

The Air Force Reserve Command contributed 17 aircraft to the effort, including C-17 Globemaster III’s, C-130 Hercules, C-5M Super Galaxy’s, and the KC-10 Extender “with 73 aircrews and hundreds of maintenance, security, medical and support personnel,” the command said.

>> Wright-Patt air wing plays role as scheduled Afghanistan pullout ends

That’s All, Brother

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'That’s All, Brother’ flies from history to the National Museum of the Air Force, Tuesday April 20, 2021 for a three-day visit.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

'That’s All, Brother’ flies from history to the National Museum of the Air Force, Tuesday April 20, 2021 for a three-day visit.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

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'That’s All, Brother’ flies from history to the National Museum of the Air Force, Tuesday April 20, 2021 for a three-day visit.

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

The first Allied C47 airplane to fly over the Nazi-held Normandy beaches on D-Day nearly 77 years ago touched down behind the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in April, starting a three-day stay that will give visitors a glimpse of living history.

>>‘That’s All, Brother’ flies from history to Air Force Museum for three-day visit

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