Air Force MSgt. Mandy Mueller, 39th Medical Operations Squadron medical services flight chief, reads a holiday letter on Dec. 11, 2019, at Incirlik AB, Turkey. SSgt. Joshua Magbanua
Photo Caption & Credits


July 1, 2020

We love letters! Write to us at To be published, letters should be timely, relevant and concise. Include your name and location. Letters may be edited for space and the editors have final say on which are published.

Russia, Russia, Russia!

With regard to [“Strategy & Policy: Putin’s Five New Nukes,” April, p. 16], a few points: First, the RS-28 Sarmat is not really a new weapon, it is just the follow-on development of Russian liquid-fueled ICBMs after the SS-18. A 200-ton, 100-foot, 10-foot-diameter storable liquid-propellant ICBM. 

Second, the nuclear-powered cruise missile sounds like a real disaster waiting to happen, a flying Chernobyl. I think the world community should consider additional sanctions on Russia simply for flight-testing such a weapon, let alone deploying numbers of them. It is a real environmental threat to the globe. Our nation discovered in the ’50s with the NB-36H that airborne nuclear power is impossible to shield and safeguard properly. It is just a stupid idea. 

Third, I believe the announcement of these five systems is solely to create fear in the West and for Putin to look “tough” to his population. It is “Crazy Ivan” all over again, to make Russia seem dangerous. 

Fourth, I have seen no mention of it in the current rush to hypersonics, but we had an operational hypersonic boost-glide type of weapon in the late 1970s, the Pershing II, which had a maneuverable Mach 8 warhead—in those days, called a MARV. Wikipedia has an excellent description of this missile. And remember, this was tested and fully operational 30 years ago! It was equipped with a nuclear warhead, but easily could have a conventional one. In particular, it had radar guidance which could be translated to an anti-ship function. We should probably restart this program to counter the Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile system. It could be carried by a modified Oshkosh 10×10 PLS  (palletized load system) truck chassis, obviating the need for a trailer/launcher. If we really wanted to, we could probably have some in service within 24 months. All development was completed 30-plus years ago. And new types of hypersonic glide vehicles could easily replace the current MARV.

Master Sgt. Chris Dierkes,
Westhampton Beach, N.Y.

I was curious to note that your article, “Putin Nuclear Retaliation Statement Seen As Nothing New by Pentagon,” by John A. Tirpak failed to mention that U.S. nuclear first-strike policy is, and always has been, that we reserve the right to strike first (unlike our policy on first use of chemical and biological weapons). The article makes the Russian policy seem new and hostile rather than reconfirmation of our and their existing long-standing policies. I know that a large part of AFA’s purpose is to publicize reasons we need a strong and effective Air Force, but exaggeration of enemy hostility does not enhance the world’s safety from nuclear weapon use. Russia’s demonstrated hostility since its documented (by all of our intelligence agencies) interference in the previous presidential election makes the need to further embellish it unnecessary.

      Steven E. Zalesch
New Haven, Conn.

On Unrest, Race, and USAF

[Regarding “World: Wright, Race, and USAF’s Demons,” June, p. 31]: [I was] on Active duty in the ’60s/’70s and retired in the ’90s. All of the military went through class after class of military training concerning race relations. What we are going through now is what we went through a generation ago. There is no difference. This generation hasn’t been taught the lessons of yesterday, and we (the older) have to take the blame for not teaching our children the fundamentals of love and respect for everyone.

Chief Master Sgt. Dwight L. Graupman,
USAF (Ret.)
Spotsylvania, Va.

The tragedy of George Floyd should never have happened. An arrest should not have resulted in a death. 

What concerns me is that the Air Force seems to feel a responsibility for this. I was in the military for 24 years and learned to work with people of various backgrounds and races and to look after each other, regardless. It is for that reason, as well as others, that I do encourage people to join the military.

I have studied military aviation history for many years, and, if anything, the Air Force has led the nation in providing opportunities for African Americans. An excellent example are the Tuskegee Airmen. Thanks to the Army Air Force, these men were given an opportunity to prove themselves and made an invaluable contribution to our victory in World War II. The Air Force was a leading institution in combating racism.  It should be viewed as such, not a racist organization.

                    Tech. Sgt. Joe Domhan,
NYANG (Ret.)
West Babylon, N.Y.

COVID and the Chief

The article [“World: COVID-19 and the U.S. Air Force; Q&A With CSAF Gen. David L. Goldfein,” May, p. 20]  certainly shows that General Goldfein has taken energetic, decisive action. However, the article also indicates to me that the Air Force does not appear to have any COVID testing capability or, at least, it doesn’t have much. COVID testing was not mentioned once.

If I look at the military in general, it doesn’t seem to have much COVID testing capability. The aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt pulled into Guam on March 27, 2020, with 20 percent of its crew infected with COVID. It’s just now pulling out to sea after being disabled for 55 days. It is pretty clear that the Navy did not have anywhere near the sufficient COVID testing capability on the USS Roosevelt, otherwise it would have been able to identify the asymptomatic COVID sailors and isolate them before 20 percent of the crew became sick. What’s worse is that the USS Kidd had a very similar disaster one month later, on April 28, with 20 percent of its crew sick with COVID. The Navy’s problems with social distancing are clearly more severe than those faced by the Air Force, but it would be a mistake not to learn from their painful experience. What if the crews that we depend upon to execute our nuclear deterrent became sick? What if the pilots that fly our F-22s and F-35s got sick?

What would it cost to test all 320,000 in the Air Force in a day? The Abbott ID Now can test 100 people in a day. Therefore 320,000 / 100 = 3,200 Abbotts. These units cost $4,500 each for a total cost of 3,200 x $4,500 = $14.4 million. This is hardly a showstopper. Each test requires reagents costing $40. This cost is $40 x 320,000 = $13 million [approximately.]

The problem is not cost. In the case of the USS Roosevelt, it would have cost less than $500,000 to test the entire crew in a day in order to save a $10 billion aircraft carrier. The problem is test machine/reagent availability. There aren’t enough. The Air Force/military can solve this problem by utilizing their defense suppliers just as Ford, GM, and GE were utilized to make ventilators.

The CDC/US public health service test philosophy is to “test a few and lock down everyone”. The military can’t afford to do this. The military must test everyone and lock down the few—the sick. The military can’t “shelter in place.” The military has to be ready to do its mission. To preserve its “readiness”, it must use separation, quarantines, and COVID testing until a vaccine is ready. Spend the appropriate amount to defeat the COVID virus.

William Thayer
San Diego 

China and COVID 19

I read with great interest the April editorial “Competition and COVID-19 [p. 2]. I agree that China has, during the last 10 or more years, tried to replace the United States as the world leader. It is my view that the United States made many miscalculations in our national economic policy during the last 30 years. 

Mistake 1: U.S. companies began the transfer of manufacturing goods into China in the early 1980s. This transfer became serious in the early 1990s as the U.S. Congress passed significant restrictive and costly manufacturing laws in the U.S. The Chinese government gladly wooed and welcomed U.S. manufacturing. 

Mistake 2: As a result of this transfer of manufacturing of U.S. goods in China, U.S. consumers got much lower prices for those products. However, the quality of Chinese-manufactured products reflected the lower prices in very expected ways—significantly reduced quality, highly dangerous products, and a significant reduction in U.S. high-paying, blue-collar jobs. 

Mistake 3: The U.S. led the world in making China a member of the World Trade Organization in December 2001. The result was that the U.S. lost 8 million manufacturing jobs (a reduction of just over 30 percent) during the first decade of the 21st century (2001-2010). The vast majority of those jobs went to China. 

Mistake 4: During the last three decades, U.S. companies and industries gave away critical manufacturing to China, all of which have come to light in the last three to six months. China makes critical defense components and sub-assemblies, has essentially developed and installed the technology in our communications products to know every bit of personal and national data on every person in the U.S., and has used stolen technology and intellectual property on much of the national and defense equipment they now use against us. 

Mistake 5: In the last 30 years our national policymakers have ignored the most insidious facet of the U.S. intellectual, technology, and manufacturing move to China—the serious promotion of outright disloyalty to the United States by major corporations and citizen groups. In the last six months, NBA players chose China over the U.S. in our President’s economic policy because their endorsements by China were more important to them than the economic and political safety of the U.S. Corporations such as Mattel, Apple, Nike, and Adidas, and much of U.S. drug companies’ products, are made in whole or in part in China. Yet these companies exercise little control of production processes and labor quality to produce these significant products and have run into serious quality and safety issues, as well as shortages. The American public and the military and our manufacturing base have received a serious wake-up call. We need to press our members of Congress and corporate leaders to treat China as a major threat to our security, national world presence, and economic and political systems. I thank Air Force Magazine for being among the first major military “house organs” to sound the alarm. I hope many read and heed.

Lt. Col. John Bredfeldt, 
USAF (Ret.)
Dawsonville, Ga.

Subordinate Support

Gen. David L. Goldfein, USAF Chief of Staff, noted that, “You make your money as a commander,” and “If you are the adult in the room that provides direction but empowers your subordinate leaders to take action, you win” [“Verbatim: Calm in the Storm,” May, 7].

Unlike the commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, I was fortunate the Air Force had a culture of providing outstanding support to deployed units. As I moved up the ranks, I never forgot how important that culture was to support the Air Force mission regardless of who or where the people were. 

As a junior officer, I was a commander of a geographically separated Air Force unit for two years, and a joint Defense detachment for another two years. I really found myself extremely fortunate to have superiors and staff in my parent unit 2,000 miles away and my headquarters another 4,000 miles be away extremely supportive and helpful. In addition to support of routine tasks, they were always quick to provide guidance in crises and extremely critical situations. I was even provided personnel on TDY to help my unit relocate from a foreign base to a USAF base under critical conditions. 

I was also fortunate that the people and the bases on which I was assigned lived up to every obligation in a tenant support relationship.  My NCOIC was the adult in that relationship, where we got outstanding routine base support from all of the functional units, like supply, engineering, transportation, security, etc. Their support was extremely important in my unit’s relocation that included over a million classified documents and over two million unclassified documents. 

Finally, having established a “two-hat” function with the theater USAF headquarters, in which I served on its staff, we got timely support to perform our mission by flying on organizational aircraft to all of the air bases in the theater to provide them with materials for peacetime operations and wartime planning.  We also got theater headquarters support in obtaining the highest priority for a secure facility on the base where many other organizations of all services were also relocating.  

Having said that, I must submit that it takes more than a commander to provide calm to lead through a storm.  If it were not for many people who voluntarily stepped up to provide advice, guidance, and support when I was a commander, I might have been like the commander of the USS Roosevelt.  

I served in the Air Force many years ago, but I truly hope the Air Force emphasizes the need for everyone to maintain a positive culture of helping units whenever and wherever they have a need. In my mid and later years of Active service and later as an Air Force civilian, I was a firm believer and proponent of the importance of providing exceptional and totally unselfish unit support. 

Lt. Col. Russel A. Noguchi,
USAF (Ret.)
Pearl City, Hawaii

What’s in a Name?

Regarding [“Editorial: Launching the Space Force,” January/February, p. 2]: After the United States entered World War I in April 1917, plans were made to construct numerous air bases throughout France. One of these bases was located at Issoudun, about 100 miles southeast of Paris. Issoudun was home to the 3rd Air Instructional Center (3rd AIC) and, at the time, was the largest air base in the world.  The base boasted 13 airfields used to train American pilots in the art and science of aerial warfare.

As part of military life, the 3rd AIC began publishing a newspaper entitled “The Plane News.”  The Plane News captured life at Issoudun. Thumbing through the newspaper you’ll find articles about events associated with the war (especially the air war), military topics such as customs and courtesies, poems, jokes, cartoons, scores from athletic events, social gatherings such as dances at the YMCA, songs, and letters.  The Plane News is an excellent resource to gain real-time insight into daily life in the Air Service.

One of the articles that caught my eye was written on July 6, 1918.  The article was titled “Name Wanted for Men of Air Service.” Unlike the infantry, who were known as “Doughboys,” and the Artillery, named “Rednecks”, the article noted there was no nickname for U.S. Airmen.  As a result, The Plane News sponsored a contest, open to all ranks, in search of an appropriate nickname. The winning entry would receive 100 French Francs (about $20).  Originally, the contest was scheduled to end on Aug. 4, 1918.  However, there was so much interest the contest was extended to Aug. 10, then to Aug. 17.

Ultimately, about 300 names were proposed by readers from which a committee selected 25. Entries included names such as “Sky Larks,” “Joy Boys,” “Eagles,” “Starshooters,” “Skyscrapers,” “Larks,” “War Eagles,” “Sky Bo,” “Sky Jackies,” and “Joy Stickers.”  Subsequently, a vote was taken by the aviators at Issoudun, where the name “Airnats” was chosen. It was suggested by Sergeant C. B. Swafford, of the 655th Aero Squadron.  The name had no particular significance, being an abbreviation of “aeronauts.”

As the war continued, “Airnats” became more and more popular. In fact, in October 1918, Captain Jay W. Fay, director of the First Air Service Band, composed what he called the “Airnat’s March,” which was a big hit wherever it was played.  Another tune, “When We Whirl In to Berlin thru the Air,” composed by Nat Vincent, James Brockman, and James Kendis, was a hit song “Dedicated to the A.E.F. Airnats” as well. (A.E.F. meaning American Expeditionary Force)

When World World War I ended, the “Airnat” nickname also passed into history.  It was obvious the name did not match the mission of the Air Service, but the term used today and for the last 100 years certainly does.  For the men and women of the Army Air Service, Army Air Corps, Army Air Force, and the United States Air Force, we are simply known as “Airmen!”

Maj. Robert A. Kasprzak,
USAF (Ret.)
Dayton, Ohio

What’s in a Uniform?

When Gen. [Merrill] McPeak came out with the new Class A uniform many years ago it was immediately dubbed the “Delta Pilot” uniform because that is what it looked like. 

The rank on the sleeve (like the Navy uses and like Delta pilots use) did not last long, and neither did the lack of insignia on the shoulder. But the lack of a pocket on the right side remained—and the worst feature of all, the three-button coat, remained. It may be comfortable (allegedly designed for general officers in the Pentagon) but it does not look “military” and should be scrapped. It’s OK to keep the polyester (but not great) for easy maintenance, but the Air Force should definitely go back to the four-button coat and right side pocket.

Col. Roy Miller, 
USAF (Ret.)