William R. Levesque, Times Staff Writer

William R. Levesque

William R. Levesque is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience who began working at the Tampa Bay Times in 1994. He covers MacDill Air Force Base, the Department of Veterans Affairs and police news.

Phone: (813) 226-3432

Email: levesque@tampabay.com

Twitter: @WilliamRLevesqu

  1. At MacDill, Sonic's bark is better than a boom


    TAMPA — The U.S. Air Force can throw a mighty arsenal at its enemies. Smart bombs. Bunker busters. Fighter jets. Flying gunships. Atomic bombs.

    What weapon does the world's most powerful Air Force pull out of its multitrillion-dollar inventory to keep aircraft-damaging birds away from MacDill Air Force Base?

    It's got a tail, hates thunder and loves a car ride — Sonic, a border collie with gumption....

    Sonic works to clear birds from the airfield at MacDill Air Force Base. Sonic’s handler, Lindsey Garven, says the dog loves to chase birds and seems to know, by instinct, when to generate a burst of speed to chase them away.
  2. Special Ops chief concerned about suicides in his force


    TAMPA — The military's special forces in the last two years have suffered "the highest rate of suicides we've had" and 2014 is on pace to be even worse, the chief of U.S. special operation forces said Thursday.

    "There is a lot of angst. There's a lot of pressure out there," Adm. William McRaven, chief of U.S. Special Operations Command, told a crowd at an intelligence symposium at the Tampa Convention Center. "My soldiers have been fighting now for 12, 13 years in hard combat, hard combat....

  3. Intel chief condemns NSA leaks that led to Pulitzer Prizes


    TAMPA — The nation's intelligence chief didn't wait for the next-day, Pulitzer Prize hangovers to recede before criticizing leaks of National Security Agency surveillance that helped two newspapers win journalism's highest honor.

    Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a crowd at the Tampa Convention Center on Tuesday that the NSA leaks, which helped The Guardian and Washington Post win a Pulitzer, put the nation at risk and jeopardized American lives....

  4. KC-46 testing may delay new jet tankers


    TAMPA — A new government report says Boeing Inc. is making good progress manufacturing the Air Force's next-generation aerial-refueling jet but warns of the possibility of unforeseen delays in such a complex program.

    The report last week by the General Accountability Office says development of the KC-46 refueling aircraft is especially important because the nation's current fleet of Eisenhower-era KC-135s tankers requires extensive maintenance to keep flying....

    KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to MacDill prepare for takeoff in 2012. “The KC-135 is restricted in tactical missions and does not have sufficient defense systems,” the GAO says.
  5. Florida losing center to store and move troop cars


    The era of military thriftiness is about to hit troops at MacDill Air Force Base and across Florida in a place they may have thought immune from the budget ax — their personal vehicles.

    The Pentagon has decreed Florida will no longer have a vehicle-processing center where troops being reassigned, including those ordered overseas, could bring their cars for transfer or storage, the U.S. Transportation Command says....

    Troops at MacDill Air Force Base and across Florida who are transferred will have to bring their personal vehicles to Atlanta to take advantage of free vehicle processing.
  6. State health inspectors turned away from Haley VA in Tampa


    TAMPA — Gov. Rick Scott's election-year bid to exert state medical authority over federal veterans hospitals continued Wednesday when Florida health inspectors visited and were turned away from the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa.

    Inspectors with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, under orders from Scott, tried to conduct an unannounced inspection at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in Seminole on Tuesday and were similarly turned away....

  7. New Camp Lejeune documents come to light


    Members of a citizens panel advising the federal agency researching polluted drinking water at Camp Lejeune are criticizing both the Marine Corps and the agency for delays in the disclosure of documents tied to the environmental disaster.

    The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry told the citizens panel at a meeting last week in Atlanta that in July 2013 the Corps turned over 40,000 documents tied to environmental problems at the North Carolina base....

  8. State inspectors turned away from Pinellas VA hospital


    State health care officials were turned away Tuesday morning from the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center in Seminole after they appeared for an unannounced inspection.

    Gov. Rick Scott asked the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to inspect the state's Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals after reports of five deaths at VA facilities in the region that includes Florida, Puerto Rico and part of Georgia. The deaths were due to delays in the diagnosis and treatment of veterans with cancer....

  9. MacDill 'hero dog' retiring


    TAMPA — Eddie the war hero is retiring, tail and all.

    The Belgian Malinois that may have saved the life of his handler and others in Afghanistan in 2012 is retiring with full military honors at a ceremony Friday, MacDill Air Force Base said Tuesday.

    "Most significantly, Eddie's role in Operation Enduring Freedom resulted in him locating two improvised explosive devices containing 10 pounds of homemade explosives which saved the lives of his 13-member patrol unit comprising U.S. allied forces," the base said....

  10. Bicyclists rally in Tampa for roadway safety

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Bicyclist Michael Duriel Lee was on his way to work last August when he was struck by a car on U.S. 92 at the Interstate 4 overpass.

    Thrown over the guardrail, the 29-year-old Lee, of Tampa, fell 80 feet and died.

    The driver of the car fled, police said. What he left behind may send him to prison: a chip of green metallic paint. Investigators said they used it to tie the driver to the death....

    Sarah Campbell of Tampa helps Debra Longro of Tampa reinstall her front wheel Sunday during the Bicycle Bash at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park in downtown Tampa,.
  11. New deputy commander for MacDill commando HQ


    TAMPA — A former Navy SEAL commander who said he was "embarrassed" by leaks in the ranks of the super-secret commandos has been nominated as deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, the Defense Department said Tuesday.

    The nomination of Navy Vice Adm. Sean A. Pybus by President Barack Obama must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. SOCom is based at MacDill Air Force Base.

    He would serve under Adm. William McRaven, another SEAL alumnus....

    Navy Vice Adm. Sean A. Pybus still must be confirmed.
  12. Tampa Bay residents sign up as health insurance deadline looms


    TAMPA — It took a ladder and gravity to teach construction worker Eric Jefferson everything he needed to know about health insurance.

    Breaking a heel and ankle in a fall last year, the uninsured Jefferson said he accumulated $20,000 in medical bills he couldn't afford. Paying for physical therapy was out of the question.

    "So I've been trying to do my own physical therapy," said Jefferson, 42, of Tampa....

    Health care navigator Ruth Bessant helps people sign up for insurance at a Family Healthcare Foundation event Sunday.
  13. MacDill getting eight more KC-135 tankers — maybe


    TAMPA — The Air Force plans to slash its ranks, retire a big chunk of its aircraft fleet and trim billions of dollars from its budget in coming years.

    Can there be any good news for MacDill Air Force Base amid such carnage?


    The Air Force's long-range plans, recently unveiled in the proposed fiscal 2015 Pentagon budget, call for MacDill to add eight KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft to its fleet of 16 in 2018 along with nearly 300 additional personnel to tend them....

    MacDill Air Force Base might be getting eight additional KC-135 tankers, similar to this one refueing an F-16 in flight.
  14. Thunderbirds arrive for MacDill AirFest


    TAMPA — If your windows rattled Thursday, no need to worry. That was just the Air Force, not an earthquake.

    The Air Force's aerial demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, arrived Thursday afternoon at MacDill Air Force Base as its F-16 pilots prepared for this weekend's Tampa Bay AirFest 2014.

    They took a few spins around MacDill and South Tampa at 600-plus mph to acclimate themselves to the terrain for their weekend performances....

  15. MacDill turns to private money to make AirFest work


    TAMPA — It is the era of the frugal air show. Get used to it.

    MacDill Air Force Base's Tampa Bay AirFest 2014 opens Saturday with the requisite aerial thrills and screaming aircraft despite a one-third cut in its military budget that had imperiled the popular event.

    Fewer military aircraft will fly this year with civilian fliers filling the gap. Otherwise, the 200,000 or more spectators expected this weekend will notice few other big changes....