3rd airman jailed in frog-toss case
SEOUL — The last of three airmen involved in an infamous frog-tossing incident at Kunsan Air Base was found guilty in a court-martial Friday.
Staff Sgt. Herman N. Elizee, of the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, was sentenced by military Judge Col. Steven Hatfield to four months in jail, a bad conduct discharge and reduction in rank to E-1.
Elizee will serve only two months in jail according to a pretrial agreement.
On June 26, 2006, Elizee tossed a small frog into an F-16 jet engine vortex, where he knew it would be sucked into the turbine blades, said prosecutor Maj. Jennifer Kramme.
Earlier, Senior Airman Welland Wilkerson tossed the frog but missed, according to court testimony.
The group used team leader Staff Sgt. Aaron F. Wilson’s camera to film the incident. The video later appeared on Wilson’s My- Space.com Web page and clearly showed the jet’s Kunsan Air Base tail markings.
Although the frog didn’t damage the engine, regulations strictly forbid any foreign objects near the engine. Maintainers learn that on their first day of training, officials said.
“It’s not up to them to pick and choose what is and isn’t safe, and when to comply,” Kramme said.
While the engines are built to withstand larger objects than the frog, there is always the possibility that a small object could damage one of the smaller, internal blades, witnesses said at Wilson’s trial.
When the video was discovered, Kunsan officials grounded its 41-jet fleet to check all engines for damage and restore confidence in their maintainers, officials said.
On March 2, Wilson was sentenced to three months in prison, a bad conduct discharge and reduced in rank to E-1 as part of a plea agreement.
Earlier this year, Wilkerson was sentenced to 30 days in jail and reduction in rank to E-1 for throwing the frog at the engine, although he missed. Wilkerson’s sentence was commuted to reduction in rank to E-2 by the wing commander, legal officials said.