The Michigan National Guard is investigating whether any policies or regulations were violated when state Rep. Tom Barrett landed a Guard helicopter on the football field at Perry High School to deliver a game ball.
Major Corissa Barton, public affairs specialist for the Guard, said Monday that the Oct. 6 event had been referred for investigation but that she could not say which rules, if any, had been violated or how long an investigation might take.
The Guard frequently participates in such events, Barton said. Asked if it was common to land a helicopter on the high school sports field, she said, "I don't believe so."
Barrett, R-Potterville, is an Iraq War veteran and chief warrant officer in the Army National Guard. He told the State Journal Monday he had not been informed of any investigation and said he did nothing wrong. He was not involved in planning the event and was only asked shortly before the event to pilot the helicopter.
"I firmly believe that it is out of line and that the investigation is improper," Barrett said. "I performed the mission as I was instructed."
The second-term representative is also running for state Senate in next year's election.
Barrett posted a video on his Facebook page of himself piloting a helicopter onto the 50-yard line at Perry High School for a game against Maple Valley that was billed as a veteran appreciation night.
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The video was viewed more than 17,000 times and received more than 100 comments. Most comments were positive, but some criticized the move as a political stunt.
Barrett said Monday neither his name nor his candidacy were mentioned at the game, and Perry Public Schools Superintendent Mike Foster confirmed that. Foster said he didn't even know Barrett was a politician.
"To me, he was just another pilot," Foster said.
Foster said a parent asked the football coach to arrange the event. The superintendent said he signed an official form that he believed requested the landing. After the game ball was delivered, the helicopter was flown to a nearby field and parked so the public could check it out.
"I saw it as a recruiting event for the National Guard," Foster said. "It certainly wasn't to publicize his candidacy, I can tell you that."
The military often participates in such events to encourage people to join. Pilots are also required to maintain a certain number of hours in the air, and such missions help them keep up on their flight time.
"I'm proud of the job I have in the National Guard, and I’m going to continue doing it," Barrett said.
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