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

April 23, 2021

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.

Long, Slow Wars

[Regarding] “Editorial: Go All In,” in March, my sincere kudos to [Tobias] Naegele for a superbly written editorial.  He states what I have been saying for years: “The failure to effectively use air power to rapidly achieve strategic effects” will result in long, slow wars against lesser foes.

Starting with the F-22 debacle, I was the program integrator in the F-22 SPO [System Program Office] at the time when Secretary [Robert M.] Gates canceled the program, because they were too “exquisite” (think expensive). He violated all the teachings learned in War College in that he planned the next conflict based on the current one.  I have for many years referred to the re-emerging Soviet Union (and, there is also China). I bought Gates’ book after I retired in 2014, thinking I might have missed something. After reading it thoroughly, I am convinced his was a very wrong decision.

War strategies: Many lessons were forgotten after World War II, where the chief aim was to win at all costs and force unconditional surrender on our opponents. Korea and Vietnam were never intended to be won, with the latter grossly so. I was there for Linebacker I and II, and I felt then that what we did during those two campaigns was what we should have been doing from the beginning. Politics got in the way again. We were told we couldn’t take out SAM [surface-to-air missile] sites until their construction was complete, and destroying enemy aircraft on the ground was a no-no. How absurd could we be? But the real tragedy is in the cost in American blood, and for what?

The only properly conducted war since World War II was Desert Storm. We had a goal (get Saddam out of Kuwait), and Washington left the military to do what we do best. We properly applied air and ground power to achieve what asked of us, in only 43 days. Even during the Kosovo War, things started to go off the track when Washington started to tell us what our targets should be, but fortunately that interference subsided and we met our goals in minimum time.

Naegele is so correct in his assessment: Leaders, both military and political, need to ask the question: “How can we use air power to achieve greater results in less time?” The politicians must clearly tell the military what the goal is, and then let the military do their job to attain that goal. Don’t tell us how to do it.

Naegele’s [editorial] should be a must-read for all.

Col. Frank Alfter,
USAF (Ret.)
Beavercreek, Ohio 

Killer Kilowatts

The first corollary to “Electric Aviation is the inevitable future of aviation” [See “Prime Investments,” March, p. 41] is that charging stations are the inevitable requirement for electric transportation  Charging requirements are not going to be limited to the flight line. The base/post commander, motor pool,  hospital, and school buses are going to need chargers.

As battery technology increases energy density and decreases charging times, the electric current and total power required will skyrocket. Electric infrastructure is a long lead time issue.

A typical home requires 25 kilowatts per day, an economy-sized electric car with a 100 mile range requires a 25 kilowatt battery.  A Class A semi-trailer requires 1 megawatt for 500 miles.  Today, a single seat EVTOL [electric vertical takeoff and landing] requires 20 kilowatts to make a 12-mile round trip. Soldiers, we are talking about HUGE future electric requirements at military installations and also for our cities.  

My recommendation to consider a plethora of small nuclear reactors is for a future letter.

Lt. Col. Rayford K. Brown, 
USAF (Ret.)
Temple, Texas

No, I Object

I, too, have been a member of the Air Force Association for over 50 years, most of it as a life member. In response to Lt. Col. Peppers’ [“Letters: I Object,” January/February, p. 6]: I object!  

As subsequent events conclusively proved to all but the most blinded, Wayne Grane’s November letter was on time and definitely on target! [Letters: On Race, Unrest, and USAF” November 2020, p. 6].   

Regardless of when, where, or who stands in its “bully pulpit,” the sooner embedded, endemic, pervasive racism is reconfined to the pit of its origin, the better off humankind will be (in or out of uniform!) 

Maj. J. Andrew Clark,
USAF (Ret.)
Murray, Utah

The More You Know … 

It is encouraging to read that [USAF Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q.] Brown “has a challenge for the force:  Understand Your Enemy.” [“Know Thy Enemy,” March, p. 45]. During the mid-1970s, Gen. David Jones returned from USAFE to become USAF Chief of Staff. He directed my boss, Maj. Gen. George Keegan, to develop a program focusing on Soviet military capabilities. We assembled 35 civilian and military Soviet experts to tackle this challenge. Those people brought academic competence, Russian language fluency, and service in Moscow to our table. 

The goal was to acquire, translate, and publish meaningful original Russian language military writings and distribute them widely. We subscribed to Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star), Pravda, Civil Defense, books, monographs, and other materials to be the basis of what became the Air Force Soviet Awareness Program. We distributed our translations across the country, throughout the Air Force, to Congress, major universities, and friendly countries.  We built a briefing team that traveled throughout the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. Chief Jones made the program a first stop in the annual brigadier general orientation course. The Soviet Awareness Program was influential to major media outlets and lasted until the Cold War ended.  General Brown’s current initiative, expanding the awareness baseline, is certainly welcome. 

Maj. Gen. William L. Doyle Jr.,
USAF (Ret.)
Papillion, Neb.

Slim Pickens

The idea of putting air-to-air missiles on a B-52 was in the 1959 book “Red Alert,” which was the prototype for the movie “Dr. Strangelove.”

About 1982, I rode in a Las Vegas elevator with Slim Pickens. He did not yell “yahoo.“

Capt. Larry Robinson
Greenville, SC. 

Honor First

When my Officer Candidate School (OCS) roommate (Class 63-A, 1962) lied about coming late back to the barracks, I never saw him again. The student Honor Committee convened, gave their findings to the commissioned staff, and Officer Cadet S_ was gone before the next lunch hour. We had an honor code that we proudly adhered to—an officer candidate will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do. Sound familiar? OCS produced top performing officers and the highest officer retention at the lowest of costs. USAF OCS closed a few years after USAFA opened at the highest cost and lowest retention rate of all commissioning sources. But it was expected to produce the highest caliber of professional military leadership.

The faculty, staff, and command of the Air Force Academy are all products themselves of that institution and all averred, “We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.” Apparently, they themselves lied, for they are now tolerating massive cheating among us. Instead of instilling honor and integrity in the very being of the cadets, the school sees the massive cheating as an opportunity to overhaul its honor code. It should be overhauling an institution that is worried more about impact on career than impact on professionalism.

Our service academy graduates are quite proud among themselves, but when their institution can’t hold to its own standard of honor, but instead talks away the lying and cheating, the very worth of an Air Force Academy commission is severely diminished.

The graduating lieutenant who stood by his or her code is tarred by those brushed with remediation rather than expulsion, and their status in the eyes of those serving under and with them is ever diminished.

Lt. Col. John F. Piowaty, 
USAF (Ret.)
Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Maintainer Mishaps

As a former USAF aircraft maintenance officer, 310th Bombardment Wing, Strategic Air Command, 1959-1962, I was encouraged to read that “Class A” mishaps—the serious catastrophic losses—decreased, but I am distressed to learn of the increase of “Class C” mishaps, (in our day they were called “incidents”). [See
“World: Mishap Rise Due to Lack of Training, Shortage of Maintainers, Report Says,” January/February, p. 25].

The lack of pilot training flying hours and reduction of instructors and increase of waivers to untrained pilots in flying units will only lead to more Class A accidents.

A more insidious trend is taking place within aircraft maintenance personnel. The report cites morale is a large problem within the maintainers and that training of maintenance personnel is seriously lacking. [Brian] Everstine reports that some new Airmen could not tell the difference between a ratchet and a socket (wrenches), and they are going into understaffed squadrons. Another distressing report says aircraft maintenance personnel are often required to perform security duties; it is no surprise many are tired and crying for help and that they leave the Air Force for civilian jobs. (Today’s leaders should look back at the Strategic Air Command to see a well-run Air Force.)

Our aircraft are incredibly complex and require regular maintenance performed by well-trained and very competent technicians. Without this, we are certain to have more Class A mishaps. Please do not let this happen.

James O. Gundlach
New Orleans

It Takes All Kinds

Regarding the revamp of personnel evaluation in USAF [See “Air Force Unveils New Standards for Enlisted, Officers Evaluations,” Daily Report, Feb. 3]:

Assessment of an individual’s personality, leadership, and management style should be separated from organizational objectives, and evaluation of their attainment.

By their very nature, operational environments of military and civilian organizations are significantly different, and require personnel who can and will adapt to different demands.

Leadership is different from management—consequently, each requires different styles and skills. While management can be learned, leadership is primarily a function of innate personality.

Good leaders have strategic vision, are self-assured and persuasive, and focus on effectiveness. Outstanding leaders also inspire others to follow and emulate them. But leaders are neither outstanding, or even good, managers.

Good managers have a sound understanding of systematic procedures and processes for planning, implementing, monitoring, and controlling, but they focus on efficiency and economy and supervise others to do work delegated to them. Some do it by persuasion; others, by pushing—readily acknowledged and accepted as the modus operandi in the military environment, but all too often perceived as ‘bullying’ in the civilian working environment.

Teamwork is a common term with different connotations, which are diametrically opposed in civilian and military environments.

Military teamwork: The leader has all the power, and teamwork is essentially a top-down ‘obey and follow the leader’ chain of command relationship.

The military ‘followership’ mode requires that the leader knows best, and followers accept/assume their superiors know better, and unquestioningly comply with orders from ranking superiors with vested authority.

However, rather than autocratic leadership, the best practice is benevolent leadership—i.e., two-way, top-down with feedback—where the leader maintains an open door policy and is open to feedback; whether or not he/she chooses to accept it.

At the other extreme, the civilian primarily shares the power and—through teamwork—encourages every member to contribute their opinions until consensus is achieved, or at least is sufficient enough to move forward.

Civilian team members adhere to organizational structure and defer to their supervision if they accept his/her personal technical competence. However, strong personalities often question and challenge those in authority, and jockey for power and recognition within the team by asserting their own technical qualifications, competence, personal, familial, and political relations; and often unhesitatingly bypass the chain of command to undercut, usurp, and/or even supplant the nominal team leader.

Thus, from the military perspective, civilians are undisciplined and tend to be insubordinate. (That’s the primary reason for military indoctrination via the service academies, ROTC and basic training.)

People are different! They are not interchangeable cookie cutter components in an organizational machine. So, when considering the capability of individuals for future leadership and/or management responsibilities and possible assignments, please seek to minimize—rather than maximize—the myriad standardization aspects of your new personnel evaluation system.

Col. Kenneth F. Smith, 
USAF (Ret.)
Honolulu

Agility is Primal

Focusing on the future is always challenging, but especially tough during the pandemic lockdown. Now that—fingers crossed—there is at least a light at the end of the tunnel with regard to returning to normal operating conditions, it’s a good time for DOD, USAF (and other military service branches), and the contractors who support them to take a refreshed look at the role Agile software development can play in the deployment of weapons systems [See “Prime Investments,” March, p. 41]. 

The last time the GAO [Government Accountability Office] weighed in on this subject, via last summer’s Defense Acquisitions Annual Assessment, it depicted a fairly bleak assessment regarding the deployment of Agile software development across nearly two dozen major DOD weapons systems, finding that, too often, attempts to deploy Agile resulted in almost the exact opposite: i.e., slower deployments, reduced levels of system security, and higher—not lower—levels of expenditure.

If there was a lesson to be learned from the GAO’s report, it was this: A program doesn’t become “agile” merely by calling it Agile, or by adopting some of its protocols in the hope that the full benefits of Agile will occur as if by osmosis.  They won’t.  Agile takes work, but if you put the work in, its benefits are manifest.

As just one example, take a look at USAF’s success in shifting its Cyberspace Vulnerability Assessment/Hunter (CVA/H) Defensive Applications and Network Support (DANS) process from a traditional waterfall model to an Agile approach aligned with DevSecOps (i.e., the integration of development, operations, and security into DevSecOps.)  

There’s an old saying, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.”  In the case of Agile, that can be updated to “And if you don’t do it right, don’t bother doing it at all.”  But when it is done right, Agile software development can be a critical driver of mission success.   

Gerry Morelli 
Sterling, Va.

SERE Training

I read with great interest and experience your article “Cracking the Code,” March,  p. 34. When I was recalled for Active duty during Vietnam, I was one of only two USAF officers sent to the Navy-Marine SERE (Survival, Escape, Resistance, and Escape) training course North Island NAS, Coronado Island-San Diego, in August 1971 as the survival school at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., was full.

After a week of ground school at [North Island] where we learned how to survive in the jungle, we were loaded into trucks, clothed in old Navy gray canvas fatigues, and driven up into the mountains to Warner Springs above San Diego (where M*A*S*H was filmed). We were told to put on our rank insignia to simulate bailout conditions, so I put on my corroded major clusters and noticed I was the oldest and [highest] ranking officer among the Gold Bars of new Navy and Marine pilots.

The first part of the course involved evading, and had us running around a shell-pocked field made to look like a battlefield. I jumped into a hole almost on top of a young Navy ensign. As I dusted myself off, he looked at me and my rank and said, “No offense, sir, but what the hell are you doing here?”

I replied, “Didn’t they tell you the war was going badly?”

He said, “Yes, but not this badly.”

I was balding, chubby, and old enough to be his father. I replied, “Son, do you drink?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “What do you drink?”

He said, “Scotch.”

I said, “If you help me through this course, I’ll buy you a 1/2 gallon of Chivas Regal.”

He got his Scotch, and I got my diploma.

By the way, this part of the course involved three to four days in a simulated  [North Vietnamese] POW camp, which included waterboarding, sleeping in a box in the ground, and being manhandled by guards dressed like the NVN and speaking Vietnamese.

After debriefing USAF POWs from Hanoi in February 1973, I was sent to advise the SERE school at Fairchild and recommended that they toughen up on the resistance as part of the training. I think they did. 

Lt. Col. Richard L. Pinkerton,
USAF (Ret.)
Cleveland

History Counts

I stumbled across John T. Correll’s article “Over the Hump to China,” and am so grateful I did. I know it was written in [October] 2009, but I was compelled to share how important it was to me and my family.

My father was one of those pilots who flew many missions over the Hump. He would regale us with stories, that we assumed were exaggerated, as that was my father’s superpower. He showed us the Blood Chit he had and explained the meaning of it. I had never read anything about it until today. As my father was quite a bit older than my mom, he passed when I was 24. I had not yet reached the stage of totally appreciating his contributions to life as we get to live today. Now I know that men and women who came back from World War I and World War II did not receive a fraction of the support that is available today. No one’s fault—it just wasn’t done.

One event my father told us about was flying over The Hump with radar equipment and some Chinese troops. They took some damage to a wing and he hollered for the Chinese officer in charge to lighten the load. When they landed, he walked into the back and there was the Chinese officer—no soldiers—and the radar equipment. When he asked the officer what happened, the officer looked at my father with tears running down his face and said, “This is all the radar equipment we will have, we have millions more soldiers. I weep for not being able to join them, as I know how to work the equipment.” My father explained to us that different cultures have different values and ways of life and they gladly sacrificed themselves to save their country. It made a deep impression on me, as I was probably 7 or 8 at that time and am 64 now.

He also told us that he couldn’t eat at the nice hotels when they went to cities, as it was too painful to see how many people were starving to death on the streets and sidewalks. I asked him why he didn’t give them food and he said they were told not to, as it would only prolong the suffering.

Thank you for allowing me to share a tiny bit of the pride and memories that this article written in 2009 meant to me. I am sending it to all of my family members. 

Kathy Dannel Vitcak
Clearbrook, Minn.

No Hero

[John T. Correll’s “Lone Eagle, March, p. 56] states “he flew The Spirit of St. Louis on a tour of the nation, touching down in 49 states.” Was the Spirit equipped with a time machine?

Despite the achievement, Lindbergh is no hero of mine. His flight was eclipsed within days. His support of Germany and particularly his display of his Nazi medal at the St. Louis Airport until after his death, where I passed it daily, was an affront. He never apologized and was unrepentant in his anti-Semitism.

Lt. Col. Allen J. Parmet,
USAF (Ret.)
Kansas City, Mo.