Taking Stock Of Widnall's Tenure (10/2/97)
Another Fraternization Case
'You Can't Control Who You Fall In Love With,' ex-airman says
By Linda Kramer/People
Lt. William Kite Jr. was working as a supervisor for security police at Whiteman AFB in Missouri when he met Rhonda Kutzer, an enlisted airman. The Air Force prohibits officers from dating enlisted personnel, but that didn't stop Kite from falling in love with Kutzer. As the relationship turned serious, Kutzer resigned from the Air Force and the two later married.
"You can't control who you fall in love with," says Kite, 27.
After Kutzer left the Air Force and after the marriage, an investigation was initiated against Kite. The Air Force charged that Kite had "carried on an impermissibly close personal relationship with the enlisted woman in violation of the custom of the Service against fraternization between officers and enlisted members."
The Air Force statement of charges also said Kite "lied to his commander and to security police investigators about the relationship." The Air Force statement added that neither Kutzer's "discharge nor their marriage mitigates the impact of their relationship on good order and discipline, nor the lack of integrity evidenced by Lt. Kite's untruthfulness."
Faced with court martial, Kite followed the lead of Lt. Kelly Flinn and petitioned Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall for an honorable discharge. She allowed him to resign with a general discharge, following the precedent she set in the Flinn case.
"If she hadn't intervened, I'm sure my husband would have been on his way to jail. I'm grateful to her for letting him resign," says Rhonda Kite, 27.
"However, we feel my particular case didn't merit going up to her in the first place," says William Kite. "It shouldn't have gotten that far. It should have been handled administratively at the base level."
He said given the alternatives of court martial or a dishonorable discharge, "Widnall has done us a great favor."
But Kite questions why the Air Force needs rules against fraternization.
"It's telling me they don't trust their people to make the right decision at the right time regarding matters of the heart," says Kite. "But at the same time, they're trusting those same people with weapons capable of destroying millions. If you can't trust somebody to control their emotions, then how are you going to trust them to push a button if they need to?"
Kite admits that he lied when confronted about dating Kutzer while she was an airman. "I didn't like lying, but if I answered yes, I'm doomed because the mentality at Whiteman AFB was hang them high. If I answered no, maybe they'll drop the case. But I made the wrong decision."
After resigning, Kite and his wife moved in with his parents near Panama City, Fla., while expecting their first child and figuring out his next career. An ROTC graduate of Florida State University, Kite has to repay some of his tuition to the Air Force and has lost most of his veterans benefits.
"I think a lot of Air Force personnel will be sorry to see Secretary Widnall leave," says Kite. "Some people didn't like the way she was doing things, the ones who were used to doing things a certain way. She came to the Air Force at a time when the Air Force was becoming more of a quality-oriented career field. Whenever Sheila Widnall was mentioned, it was along with the quality Air Force."
In Other News:
Friday Oct. 10, 1997
Clinton Again Vetoes Abortion Ban
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