Rep. Calvert Introduces Bill to Improve the Safety of U S  Service Members

Safety of U S Service Members Receives Attention

1Lt. David John Schmitz (Photo courtesy of Bullock Funeral Home & Crematorium)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Ken Calvert, CA-41, introduced the Military Equipment Quality and Safety Reform Act (MEZr Act), H.R. 4214, legislation that will improve the safety of U.S. service members by establishing and implementing a new system for analyzing and addressing nonconformity issues found in all major accidents and mishaps throughout the military.

The legislation is inspired by the death of Rep. Calvert’s constituent and F-16 pilot First Lt. David Schmitz (callsign “MEZr”) whose ejection seat malfunctioned while attempting a nighttime landing that ultimately resulted in a fatal crash in July 2020.

The F-16CM Fighting Falcon was on a routine training mission from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter when it went down at the base at about 11:30 p.m., officials said in a news release. Schmitz was the fighter jet’s lone occupant who died on the scene, and no other injuries were reported, according to a news the release at the time. Schmitz, a California native, was 32.

The incident was called an “accident,” and an “aircraft mishap,” by Air Force officials.

Information on what caused the F-16 to crash was not immediately available, but it is being investigated, according to the release. Schmitz died at the scene, according to base officials.

Schmitz’s “lifelong goal” was to fly for the U.S. Air Force as a pilot, 20th Fighter Wing Commander Larry Sullivan said in a video released on Shaw’s Facebook page. At 17 years old, Schmitz earned his pilot’s license, and he attended undergraduate pilot training at Laughlin Air Force Base.

Schmitz enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served as a loadmaster on the C-17 aircraft, Sullivan said. At the time of the crash, Schmitz was training with his squadron, the 77th Gamblers, ahead of deployment overseas for combat operations, according to Sullivan. The F-16 was assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing at the South Carolina base. The 20th Fighter Wing is the largest and most active F-16 unit in the Air Force. It has roots in World War I, was formed in World War II, has fought in every major U.S. conflict since, and has often been the “tip of spear” in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 20th Fighter Wing has deployed more than 8,000 airmen to the Middle East and Afghanistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, The State previously reported.

Safety of U.S. Service Members Receives Attention

Congressman Ken Calvert

“The MEZr Act will better protect the lives of our most precious national security resource – the men and women who serve in our military,” Calvert said in a statement. “One avoidable death in our military should be one too many. The tragic loss of Lt. Schmitz is a call for action. Our service members deserve a complete and thorough analysis after every serious accident to see what we could have done differently and how we avoid the same fate again in the future.”

The MEZr Act requires the Secretary of Defense to establish and implement a comprehensive system for analyzing and addressing nonconformities in the aftermath of all Class A Mishaps. The legislation also ensures accountability and transparency by requiring public disclosure of all information related to these accidents. Finally, the bill authorizes the Secretary to establish penalties, which may include fines, suspension, or revocation of contracts, for noncompliance with the requirements of the system.

Image Sources

  • Ken Calvert: Ken Calvert Official Photo
  • Lt. David Schmitz.: Courtesy Laughlin Air Force Base