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

Letters

Nov. 1, 2020

We love letters! Write to us at letters@afa.org. 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.

Doctors in Space

I have read several articles about the Space Force. None have mentioned how medical care will be provided to the Space Force members. Will Space Force be a tenant at whatever base or bases its forces are located? If so, medical care will be provided by the base host. If Space Force will have its own bases, then presumably it will have its own medical staffs. Will physicians, nurses, and [healthcare professionals] have special training, which might be required for the support of Space Force missions? As a former flight surgeon certified in the field of aerospace medicine, these questions interest me.

Edward H. Parker Jr.
Walla Walla, Wash.

Beam Me Up

I believe it was Congressman Ben Crenshaw that stated that Space Force ranking [should] be like the Navy … because of Star Trek. Seriously? Air Force ranking is similar to Army ranking, since the Air Force has it’s roots in the Army. Therefore, it makes sense that Space Force ranking follows the Air Force. Even the Marines don’t use Navy ranking. 

Mike Hupence
Schnectady, N.Y.

Warskills

Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., CSAF, in his document, “Accelerate Change or Lose,” August 2020, proposes the need for Airmen to establish a capacity to expand their warfighting skills and to be more flexible in supporting warfighting processes. 

I was assigned to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing (8TFW) at Kunsan Air Base, Korea, in 1977-78 as a captain in the intelligence division of the wing.  Although the wing had two fighter squadrons, all intelligence personnel were assigned to the wing. One officer and one NCO were attached to each squadron for training and daily current operations. The intelligence division consisted of 19 personnel under the wing director of operations and had an ops intel branch and a targets branch.  The division was not fully manned for war and had to be augmented during inspections and major exercises.

A blessing at the time was the “Warskills Program,” in which personnel from noncombat support functions like personnel, finance, engineers, mess, etc., were tasked to augment the combat support functions like munitions, maintenance, command post, air police, and intelligence. We were allowed to scan assigned personnel listings with their training and job backgrounds. We interviewed potential personnel and selected those who were then attached to the intelligence division for training during exercises and pre-operations readiness inspections or [operations readiness exercises]. 

Based on our personnel strength and the standard for most fighter wings, we were authorized four Warskills personnel. We always had five [or] six personnel identified, and four fully trained. We were extremely fortunate to have former intelligence personnel who had lost top-secret clearances in previous assignments because they had gotten married to foreign nationals. We were lucky to have a staff sergeant who was a RIFed (reduction in force) captain and former Air Force navigator who we used in the targets office to help aircrews do their combat mission planning. We also found a mess sergeant in our wing who was a former Korean linguist and intelligence analyst in the Army. We used him to brief threats to both American and Korean aircrews, as well as to our command post. Others helped us in briefing and debriefing aircrews during training or combat mission exercises. Others helped us in “ripping and stripping” charts for drawing combat routes during conventional and special exercises.

I believe the Warskills Program was a benefit to our fighter wing, using assigned personnel to immediately augment combat support functions as required. 

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

Confuse-a-SAM

One important aspect of future offensive air campaigns that was not mentioned at all in the article was the use of decoys [“A Better Way to Measure Combat Value,” September, p. 60]. I believe it will be highly advantageous to launch as many decoy systems at a future enemy’s A2/AD (anti-access, area denial) complex as possible. Additionally, each decoy, using the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD) as an example, should have some type of small warhead—10 lbs. would be enough—say, to damage an antenna or a SAM (surface-to-air missille) on its launcher, and some basic type of passive radio frequency (RF) seeker. In that way, the enemy is forced to go after each and every single decoy, because they won’t know whether it is a high-quality weapon or a cheap one. Another thing that would help to confuse the enemy and cause them to waste SAMs would be to give all the decoy missiles a variable radar cross section (RCS) capability and artificial intelligence communications with each other, such that a spread out formation could essentially ‘blink’ the largest RCS back and forth around the sky, drawing the SAM’s aimpoint all over the sky, kind of like a piano player stroking his fingers over the keys from side to side, with targets appearing and disappearing in various patterns designed to cause the SAM to blow it’s energy maneuvering and miss.  

Meanwhile, the good stuff sneaks in from unanticipated directions and knocks out the targets. In other words, design the decoys essentially as very cheap, low-peacekeeping cruise missiles, which have a basic low RCS that can be increased or decreased by computer control. Give the MALD a small warhead and dirt cheap RF homing, and build many thousands of them, like Khrushchev’s sausages, so they will be cheap. Call it MALD-K, for Kill. It doesn’t have to be good at all, just cheap and numerous. Maybe we could license this to Taiwan and prepare thousands ready in launchers all over the island. Same on the Japanese Southwest Islands, and Eastern Europe too. Deploy thousands in Poland and Romania.

A version of this technique was used by Israeli pilots in the Mideast wars, getting the SAM site to fire over and over at circling fighter aircraft that would then dip away just out of the envelope. When the SAMs were all expended, the Israelis could then attack the site.

MSgt. Christopher Dierkes,
106th RQW
N.Y. ANG

With deference to Lt. Gen. David Deptula and Douglas Birkey, their espousal of combat value is an outgrowth of two larger factors that have plagued U.S. air power for years. When faced with the massive cost-to-kill issue, it is only natural to go off on an exercise to prove that your suggested employment of air power is proper and justified. In fact, they did a marvelous job. I would like to address the reason the authors felt compelled to compile and compare air power options with various aircraft and, to use the oxymoron, less is more, when talking about numbers of aircraft.

The reason is risk avoidance. (1) Let’s not endanger our pilots, and; (2) limit damage lest a noncombatant is killed. Does anyone really believe the Gulf War enemy defenses justified using F-117s to strike 40 percent of the fixed targets? No, of course not, the real effort was justifying the large, very expensive classified program to develop stealth aircraft. The air defense environment was avoided so as not to risk a loss, thus casting stealth in doubt since a Third World defense would’ve triumphed. Precision weapons do destroy the target, but they are expensive to develop and expensive to replace when compared to more conventional weapons. Think of buying printer ink when looking at the cost of replenishment—pretty expensive, isn’t it?—and it always seems you need it. The goal of not endangering pilots is met by evermore expensive aircraft with enhanced situational awareness, communication networking, defensive weapons, etc.  

Bombing and damage were beautifully articulated by retired Air Force Lt. Col. Perry Clausen in an article for the Naval Institute’s Proceedings in January 2005. “‘Shock and awe’ require someone to be shocked. Instead of killing the enemy, some buildings and rusty tanks were destroyed for television viewers, while thousands of enemy soldiers simply went home—many to fight another day.” The Air Force exists today as the most expensive option available to support ground forces and take out specified, limited-value targets. It flies and fights in Third World countries with no air defense or counter-air, yet its supporters feel obligated to justify the evermore expensive way the Air Force spends tax dollars.

At the end of the article it states, “Threats posed by Russia, China, and a host of other nations like Iran and North Korea are very real.” Certainly, the first response to Russia or China is a missile attack—standoff, of course, or ballistic. Iran and North Korea should not be in the same threat sentence as Russia and China. The bottom line now is we have an Air Force that saves U.S. lives and enemy lives and prolongs their will to fight. Shouldn’t the alternative be considered? Employ the Air Force for the required death and destruction to quickly end to the conflict at hand.

Lt. Col. Greg Moyle,
USAF (Ret.)
St. Petersburg, Fla.

Belly-Flop

The KC-46 saga: I can’t get it out of my mind [“Letters: Look a Boomer in the Eyes,” June, p. 7]. Some months ago, I was invited to a formal function that included our then-Chief of Staff, General [David L.] Goldfein, and of course a bevy of lower ranking four-, three-, and one-stars. I made polite conversation with many, but one conversation sticks in mind. It was a three-star I was talking to, not in a flight suit, for a change, but in Air Force blues. The ribbons told me everything I needed to know. It turns out the KC-46 was on the general’s plate. I am a pretty-much-to-the-point kind of guy, and asked why the boomer in the front cockpit? After all, we’ve fielded generations of tankers from the KB-50 to the KC-97 to the KC-135 to the KC-10, and the boomer has done his job lying on his belly—flying the boom, or drogue—and got the job done. 

The general’s response took me aback, “Don’t you think that is a rather uncomfortable position?” I never thought of our boomers that way. After sitting for 12 to 14 hours in an ejection seat in an RB-47, I knew for sure that comfort was not something the builders had in mind when they developed that lifesaving seat. The boomer’s prone position seemed absolutely luxurious to me. This may have been a flippant remark by the general … but, maybe not. If I am going to go out and die for my country, that is a decision I have made a long time ago as a man. I expect not comfort from my weapon system, but efficiency and the greatest possible chance an engineer can give me to kill the other guy before he gets a chance to kill me. Our boomers, lying on their bellies, have no trouble refueling any aircraft we manage to put into the sky. They have good depth perception, they have peripheral vision, they know where the refueling receptacle is on whatever aircraft they are tasked to refuel. That’s their job, and I have never, ever had a refueling terminated or not completed because the man—today, women of course, as well—couldn’t handle his boom or the basket if it was drogue and probe.

The KC-46 problem is a self-induced problem and possibly representative of a fast-burner type of officer corps that no longer can distinguish between what is essential to survival and what is nice to have. Political issues aside, the Air Force acquisition office had to sign off on the boomer concept in the front cockpit, relying on software to give the boomer what he possesses naturally. I would have fought that concept tooth and nail, damn the promotions. I cannot think of an operational requirement for that change. That Boeing sold the Air Force a bill of goods with a second-rate software package, and was able to get away with it, is another mystery to me, and I know what I speak of as a former program manager for a major defense contractor, who is still around. Bad decisions, for whatever reasons, are made all the time, at all levels of government. They are made by good people who, at the time, for whatever reasons, thought it was the way to go. We know better today. Years ago, when a flight safety officer at USAFE Headquarters, I had some C-118 drivers at Wiesbaden Air Base, Germany, lodge a formal complain about having to wear Air Force blues—they wanted to wear flight suits like the fighter jocks. General Jones was CINC USAFE at the time. He decided the solution to the problem was to get rid of the C-118. 

Problem solved.

Let’s get rid of the KC-46, which has a tanker designation but really isn’t a refueling tanker. Can’t do the job. 

 I assure you that the new software package proposed by Boeing will have as many issues as the old—I grew up on software and think I know what I am talking about. The KC-46 is not a weapon system, to earn that designation it has to be able to perform its design functions. This airframe is something neither General Goldfein, nor the commander of Air Combat Command, are prepared to send into ‘real’ combat where not only mission accomplishment, but peoples lives, are at stake. We always have, and always will, care about the lives of our aircrews, written plainly into the tasking statement by General Arnold to his technical adviser, Dr. Theodore von Kármán, when Kármán was asked to come up with a report to define the air power needed for the future: “It is a fundamental principle of American democracy that personnel casualties are distasteful. We will continue to fight mechanical rather, than manpower, wars,” part of Arnold’s tasking statement. 

Nothing has changed since 1944. Our Airmen deserve something better than the KC-46. Money spent is water under the bridge—an old accounting slogan—and should not be a consideration at all. There are hundreds of commercial aircraft available at the present time at really good prices. Buy a bunch of them with the software money we are going to waste to make the front-seat boomer a reality, and turn them into old-fashioned tankers. It just takes a bunch of belly tanks, a refueling boom, and—you guessed it—the boomer lying on his belly doing his job.

We have not fought a ‘real’ war in years, where the bad guys are nearly as good as we are. We not only need quantity but we need quality that we can count on. No one can jam the boomer—but if it’s software and designed by man, not avatars, then man can make it inoperable. The worst combat scenario I can think of is a hungry multimillion-dollar fighter sitting behind a tanker fully loaded who cannot transfer his fuel. Let’s get hungry again and build weapons that will assure our survival. 

Oh, as for those surplus KC-46s? They were transports to start with. I am sure we can find a use for them.

Col. Wolfgang W. E. Samuel,
USAF (Ret.)
Fairfax Station, Va.

Would it have not been cheaper, faster, and the KC-46 would be mission capable now to just have grafted the KC-10 boom and pod onto the aircraft rather than going through the “state-of-the-art” gambit and failing? Much different in the real world, when you need gas and the system is unreliable. I have been both a fighter back seater and tanker nav. Sometimes, tried-and-true beats erratic state of the art.

Lt. Col. Mike Wilmore,
USAFR (Ret.)
Driftwood, Texas

On Race, Unrest, and USAF

I read in earnest the many letters in the September Air Force Magazine, “On Unrest, Race, and USAF.” As a retired colonel with nearly 28 years in uniform, plus an additional eight years as a government civilian on the SAF staff (now an OSD government civilian), I looked back over my career with alarm—was I part of the solution, or was I part of the problem? I confess that I have very seriously wrestled with this question almost daily since it thrust upon the front page. Reading those stories clearly points to a situation over the decades that finally exploded. Every day of my career, I have worked side-by-side with African Americans, had African Americans under my command and supervision, and have been directly supervised by African Americans who were some of the best leaders and mentors anyone could have asked for. Our mission is challenging enough, and introducing friction and pain points caused by nothing more than the color of one’s skin is unfathomable. It honestly hurts to know that I could have helped more of those African American heroes who voluntarily put on the uniform to serve, and serve without being marginalized. This is one item where everyone is an action officer to be part of the solution … right here, right now.

Col. Jim Holland,
USAF (Ret.)
Alexandria, Va.

It’s OK, you can be a racist. Actually, our Constitution protects your right to be one. For years, I have told people that I have spent 24 years in the military to protect your right to be anything you want to be. That usually happens after you make some stupid racist remark, so you know what I’m referring to.

For years, we, as a nation and as the military, have progressed to protect minority rights, for individuals of any race or religion or sex to fairly compete for promotions. But, that doesn’t mean we have become less racist or bigoted. Racism and bigotry went underground. You heard it—at a bar, after a few drinks, how that “Black blankety-blank” got elected President. How could general so-and-so get a fourth star? He’s (fill in your religious, sex, or racist bigotry). We will break bread but only for “official” reasons. We really could care less about your background and experiences. Just don’t let him move next to me after I retire.

What’s different today is we have a Commander in Chief who gives you permission to express your true feelings. He tells you that he will protect YOUR suburban home from “those people.” And, to think, you just might be a “sucker” or “loser” too.

Oh, I could go on and on, but I promised this would be short. Be the person you want to be. This is America (at least for a while longer).

Wayne P. Grane
Hobe Sound, Fla.

It appears to me that we are in a race to the bottom in the name of political correctness, at a time when we are facing perhaps the largest threat to democratic government in my lifetime in the form of a rising, aggressive, totalitarian China. 

Did it ever occur to the authors to look at underlying factors such as comparative test scores and job performance reports rather than  implying unfairness, racism,  and discrimination?

And, I was shocked to see that we have eliminated below-the-zone promotions because apparently they are too white.  These highly talented individuals often end up in key command positions and are precisely the type of people we need at the top.

If and when the war flag goes up, we want the best and brightest leading our military. Promotions should be based on merit and performance and not on politically correct factors. You can get away with aircraft carriers without urinals and assignments and promotions based on establishing racial and gender “fairness” because it looks and functions OK in peacetime when there are few consequences.  But not against a first-rate military like China when our very survival will be on the line.

Col. Michael D.D. Madden,
USAF (Ret.)
Redding, Calif.

I was offended by the implications that the U.S. Air Force treats our Black Airmen different than anyone else. I entered basic training in April of 1980 and we were all Airmen. We had written rules and regulations with penalties for breaking the rules. There was a process for pleading one’s case if there was a perception of, or an actual, injustice. We also had Social Actions as an avenue to deal with grievances that were ignored by our supervisors and/or leadership.

“Leveling the Field:” The graphs on pp. 28 and 29 show average promotion rates. The ethnicities were mentioned but was schooling considered? I had nearly zero study habits when I entered the military and may have lagged in promotions, too. There are a lot of variables to consider. Were the Airmen placed in the correct career field? I met Darlene when I was stationed at Osan [AB, South Korea]. She was a jet engine mechanic who was allergic to jet fuel, engine oil, and hydraulic fluid. She could only fill clerical positions, so career progression was unlikely. With regard to discipline, I served as a correctional custody duty NCO in Europe and in upstate New York. The resident population was a good representation of the Air Force population.

“Black Airmen Speak:” This left me shaking my head. Are people offended because someone pointed out a reserved parking spot? Ever hear someone say, “That’s a handicap spot” before realizing the person is authorized a handicap spot? When was the last time a person of color was followed through AAFES or an unarmed Black person was shot by security forces on base during a traffic stop? Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton mentions George Floyd and others and uses these as making a case for racism. Each individual he named committed a crime resulting in a law enforcement response. Their demise isn’t the result of racism, but more to their actions during the encounter. Take Freddie Grey for example. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of Baltimore; Anthony W. Batts, Police Commissioner; Jack Young, City Council President; Barry Williams, Judge; Marilyn Mosby Attorney for Baltimore City; Loretta Lynch US Attorney general; President Barrack Obama, and three of the six police officers are all Black.

We are Airmen and a family. The never-ending surveys costing thousands of dollars referencing “diversity” and “inclusion” put us in segregated boxes.

Can we, for once, be Americans and do the important mission we are here to do?

MSgt. Stuart M. Oberdeen,
USAF (Ret.)
Dayton, Ohio

The tactless conclusions Maj. Patrick J. Hoy (USAF, retired) draws in his October commentary about racial incidents are staggering, and too numerous to address entirely. So I’ll just address his statement that George Floyd, Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were “thugs and bullies who reacted violently,” implying they received what they deserved. This attitude misses the point. Whatever their transgressions (none of which involved a weapon), should have resulted in due process and jail time, not a summary trial and execution by their apprehender.  Floyd died with a knee in his neck, Brown was shot multiple times from several feet away, and Martin was stalked in his own neighborhood while walking home. I recognize the controversy of many of the political positions of Black Lives Matter, but Major Hoy’s attitudes go far in highlighting the diminished value many place on Black lives, and his attitude actually underscores the problem in his attempt to dismiss it.          

Col. Keith W. Reeves,
USAF (Ret.)
Gainesville, Va.

During my 52 months in the AF (1964-68), I neither witnessed or heard of any racial bias incidents. The only color that counted was blue. I hope that’s still true. The charge of systemic racism is nonsense.

What we really have is systemic political correctness and a tidal wave of “wokeness” that is destroying our nation. Here are two toxic examples: 1. Critical Race Theory (CRT), a doctrine that claims all White people are inherently racist oppressors, and all people of color are inherently victims of racial oppression. President [Donald J.] Trump canceled CRT courses that were conducted at federal agencies, including the Air Force. But they’re still taught in the business and academic worlds. 2. A cancel culture in the media and academic life that stifles free expression and shatters careers. Harper’s Magazine posted a letter signed by 150 writers, artists, and academicians that condemned the cancel culture as a threat to our democracy.

Richard Reif
Flushing, N.Y.

Historical Oops

There is an error on page 68 in the very interesting John T. Correll story “Rise of the Air Corps” [September],  the article erroneously states “… the Curtiss P-36 Hawk, forerunner of the P-36 Warhawk  … .”  It should have stated “the Curtiss P-36 Hawk, forerunner of the P-40 Warhawk … .”

In the July/August issue of Air Force Magazine, the captions for the pictures on pp. 58 and 59 in the “The Spaceplane: 60 Years On” are reversed.

Lt. Col. Ed Sienkiewicz,
USAF (Ret.)
Bonaire, Ga.