Monday, October 23, 2017

To sleep – perchance to dream *


Well, last week, I woke up to a new record low for the area.  38 wonderful degrees.  The workout session even involved turning off the fan, I was getting cold.  So, Fall must be upon us.  In that light, this week's foodie vector contribution will be Cassoulet!



I've made this several times and it was PDG everytime.  Now that I've retained ownership of the foodie vector at Chant du Départ, back to this week's post.

Yesterday as I was perusing links on the interwebz, I came across this.  The Air Force is allowing 1500 retired Majors-Lt Cols to "unretire" and return to the active duty.  Hence the title of the post.  One of my recurring dreams is that I'm back in a fighter squadron and on the flight schedule, but something precludes me from actually getting airborne.  Sometimes it's that I can't find my flying boots.  Other times it's that I can't find a lineup card that hasn't already been used.  Weird, I know.
Could it be me?
Source

So, interested, I click on the link to find the devil in the details.   I don't qualify. First, I'm above the max age (60).  Additionally, I've been gone more than 5 years (rapidly approaching 20), and I'm medically disqualified now.  Bummer!  

But....there was a brief period yesterday where all was good and I was finally in command of an F-15 Squadron taking off at Dawn to smite the enemy.  It was a glorious feeling, if fleeting.

Because...I realized that these retreads were going to fill desk jobs to free up active duty guys to go and smite the enemy.  Nothing wrong with that per se, but.....

The Air Force has changed enormously in the last 20 years.  I had to quit reading John Q. Public, it was getting too depressing, it made me too angry.  

So after that brief flight of fancy, I realized that even if I could go back.  I wouldn't.

Here's why. 

Our fearless leader, aka Sarge, has been hitting on an issue that has been on my mind for years.  His last two post's ( here and here) hit about major symptoms of the problem.
The second link above contained a comment that I believe to be spot on:

My theory is that once the war is over generically speaking) the officers who have seen the most combat are heartily sick of it and return to civilian life. Those who spent the bulk of their time "in the rear with the gear" stayed in and became generals and advisers to politicians. Those who had learned nothing from the last war rose to command the bloody debacles of the next.
I've mentioned before my belief that this is the basic problem with the Air Force.  It has been a problem for years before my time.  Rewatch the movie "12 O'Clock High", specifically the opening scenes before Gregory Peck takes command, as an example.  (I know, Movie? If it wasn't historically accurate, the movie most likely wouldn't have been made. Nor would the Air Force (and Army) have used it as a leadership training film back after Carter and before Clinton.) However, due to a combination of factors, primarily declining force structure and political policies that were/are, whether intentionally or unintentionally, destructive, the death spiral is nearly complete.

I believe this all stems from a structural problem.  

Line Officers (Officers in Combatant units) in the Army and Marines start out their careers (after training of course) in charge of enlisted personnel in their units.  LTs command platoons with an NCO to actually run things and keep the LT from screwing things up too badly.  This continues all the way up the chain.  They compete for promotion with others who are doing the exact same type of thing.  Command units intended for combat.

The Navy has a somewhat similar structure.  Line Officers are given charge of a section on a ship, with enlisted folks actually doing the work.  Even pilots on carriers are given duties to supervise enlisted.  (I'll grant that there are probably exceptions to this.)


No, not the Air Force, however.  With the exception of Medical, Chaplains, and Jags, every officer is a Line Officer.  Fighter Pilots are Line Officers, which is as it should be. but so is a Personnel Officer. The mission of the Air Force is to "Fly, Fight and Win" (or it should be.  It's actually "The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win...in air, space and cyberspace." How do you fly in cyberspace?)


Ergo, Aircrew perform the mission of the Air Force.  That is the definition of Line Officer.

Why then are Personnel Officers Line Officers? Finance Officers, Logisticians, Engineers ...  I could go on for hours.  All are Line Officers.

Do not misinterpret what I'm saying.  All those functions are important, necessary and hard work.  The mission of the Air Force could NOT be performed with out the efforts of all.


My gripe is that I'm competing for promotion against them.  Which, on the surface, seems like a "so what?".  Well...


So, hypothetically, let's compare two hypothetical OPRs (Officer Performance Reports).


OPR A.  Lt Juvat has successfully completed F-4 RTU and is on path to Flight Lead.  He is qualified in both Pave Spike and Maverick weapons systems and is Nuclear Certified.


OPR B.  Lt Mrs. Juvat leads the promotions branch for the Personnel Office in charge of 20 enlisted.  During this period, she developed a new system for processing OPRs 50% faster than before.


Which has the better chance of promotion?  The person who has completed 50-60 missions spending countless hours studying, reading, practicing, briefing and debriefing and can now basically build a Maverick, Pave Spike or a rescheduled sunrise?


Or the person who processes paperwork and has 20 enlisted working for her.


Unfortunately, the promotion board is composed of Line Officers from all AFSC's.  Most of whom think Maverick was a television show from their childhood.




As opposed to:





So, it's difficult to explain to someone who doesn't fly, why it's important to retain pilots in general, fighter pilots specifically on active duty especially if there's no war on, and we're in a force reduction period, and....(Well, let's not go into the SJW aspects of current personnel policies) 

Since it's very difficult to compare and contrast a 10 meter bomb at 6 O'clock dropped on a practice mission with 50% faster real world OER processing, it's very easy for the non-rated members of the board to vote differently on whom to promote. Since failure to promote is also grounds for termination, this has become a big portion of the AF's problem now. 

The second conundrum has acquired a new term, "queep", BITD it was called NFBS.  The first two words of the acronym being "Non-Flying".  A select group, most of whom graduated from a school located between Denver and Colorado Springs, realized that the road ahead wasn't being the best fighter pilot (bomber...Transport....whatever!), but it was being the best at non-flying quantifiable "things" like Highest United Way contribution rate, best time on the 2 mile run etc.  


You know, things that really make the Air Force a fine combat organization.  


And it worked.  As a scheduler, we had a semi-official term for these folks.  Seagulls. You had to throw a rock at them to get them to fly.  But, they were ALL OVER United Way!


The Seagulls got promoted. (Back when TAC had stars on their sleeves, gold for combat time and silver for non-combat, it was VERY easy to identify these people.  Which is why the stars on the sleeve quickly went away.  Ras and Vegas had, IIRC, 4 and 3 gold stars respectively indicating over 1500 and 1000 hours combat time.) 


And......


The Seagulls promoted folks just like themselves. Who promoted folks just like themselves.


And the cancer grew.


Now we've got Seagulls in leadership positions with Non-judicial as well as Court Martial authority making the rules.


Those rules don't include being the finest combat ready aircrewman in the world or training or leading them.  


Nope. Managing or ruling them, maybe.


That whirring sound just outside the USAFA Chapel is Robin Olds, spinning in his grave.


If it were up to me, the Line of the Air Force would be much like the other services.  Officers who held an AFSC as a Combatant, would compete for promotion against like officers with like Officers on the board.  Officers with different skill sets (i.e. Personnel, Finance, etc.) would compete for  promotion against others in that category.


Because promotions no matter how delineated, devolves into a numbers game ("My Bomber pilots constitute 20% of the folks up for promotion, we should get 20% of the promotions"), failure to promote for a line officer would no longer be grounds for termination.  After some number of non-promotes, their commission, at their discretion and retirement/separation as an option, would be  transferred to a warrant officer's commission with the same courtesies, effective rank and pay where they could stay until 20.  Most of the Fighter Pilots (as opposed to pilots of fighters) I knew would have jumped at the chance.

This next proposal will really annoy non-combatant officers, but.....When drawdowns come as they always do, non-flying billets would be filled with rated officers. This would retain the Service's combat capability until the next expansion came and they were returned to their flying billets.  It was called Rated Sup (rated supplement) in my Dad's day.  He hated it, but he did return to flying. 


I didn't.


So take that fact and my opinions expressed herein under advisement.


Would this solve the Air Force's problem?  It would be impossible to do worse than the people in charge are doing now.



Hamlet, Act-III, Scene-I

39 comments:

  1. Oddly enough I thought of you when I heard the Air Force would be recalling a bunch of retired pilots.

    You and Randy Quaid. ;)

    You have seized the food vector, might be time for a callsign review board.

    Chef.

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    1. Callsign rules.
      1) Never protest the ruling of the Callsign committee.

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  2. I think callsigns are always subject for review depending on the events, sport.

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    1. Unless things have changed in the AF in the last 20 years, that was always the case. New squadron, new callsign. Unless...It was perfect (e.g. Benjamin "Dover" Saylor)

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    2. I don't think I've ever heard a more perfect callsign.

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    3. He hated it!

      Thus is stuck.

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    4. I laugh every time I say it out loud.

      Of course, I always say Ben (not Benjamin) and yes, some of my Navy colleagues are starting to get nervous.

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  3. I've been depressed over the path the Air Force has taken for many years and your post has definitely increased my level of depression but non the less, good post. The truth sometimes hurts but it is what it is!

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    1. Sorry about that. I had written much of this a month or two ago, but sat on it for most of the same reasons you mentioned. Sarge's posts and comments recently made it a bit more relevant, so I dusted it off for today. Wish it were different, but.....

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  4. juvat, your ideas have much merit, but, if I may, let me make some suggestions. 1) Return the ground support element to the Army; 2) Turn the above atmosphere forces into a new service, e.g. Space Forces ( which would also need its own Marines ); 3) Create a Strategic Bombardment Force for the heavy bombers. In the new services, no officer may be promoted above O-3 without having qualified as something other than a " Seagull ".

    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. Those are interesting ideas. Economies of scale, I think, would be problematic. I do like your last idea and support it wholeheartedly though.

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  5. I'm a has-been Navy SPECWAR mustang and may not have the credibility to throw my cracker into the soup here...but I will anyway.

    Eagles may soar but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.

    REMF's always have an advantage. The Pentagon Club promotes and defends its own. You can go there, and never leave (not unlike the Hotel California). I agree with Anonymous in that ground support aircraft need to be returned to the Army.

    Something is seriously broken when the USAF is under strength by 1000+ fighter pilots. I blame the generals. The fish rots from the head down. Maybe it's time to early retire some of those Pentagon chair warmers and to thin the ranks of general officers.

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    1. Can't disagree with any of the above, although there'd be considerable "how ya gonna handle..." with the ground support statement.

      Last paragraph though is a "shack". Pretty sure the non-rated positions are fully manned, and I'm positive the Pentagon is. I think I read somewhere recently that the AF has more generals now than they had in WWII. I'll have to go and see if I can find that.

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    2. Is the under-manning also a problem of the changing Air Force? More unmanned combat sorties than manned? I know they were yanking guys out of cockpits to fly Predators and Reapers. Maybe they all said screw it and left. Airlines have been hiring. I don't think you can retain a jet pilot using the lure of a ton o' money and the promise of all the UAV sorties they can handle. The folks you'll attract with a "welcome back" sign, especially if they aren't going to fly, may not be the best. Now if they involuntarily pull guys back, we're bringing back the draft.

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    3. Probably some truth in that...But I think the real problem is leadership or lack thereof. The stories I've heard, tend to not involve flying, rather the requirement to do all the non-flying related stuff. Then couple that with all the SJW stuff going on, commander's clearly violating rules and regulations to punish people (Laughlin scandal)(Flag Ceremony during Retirement) the list goes on. A military organization requires the person in charge to LEAD not manage. Unfortunately, the AF has been teaching management for years and is reaping what it has sown.

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    4. BTW LL, I always sign my name on my comments, so it's ok to use my name when referencing.

      Paul L. Quandt

      P.S. I still can't comment at your site because of the hoops. You have a good site and I'd be happy to be a commenter there.

      Paul

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  6. I still read JQP and the bad news now is that 100% of Air Force officers who can still fog a mirror are automatically promoted to major. First real selection board happens for LtCol. It's about the same now for the Navy and it gets worse since most now punch out at 20 which ends up making selection for 06 almost automatic.

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    1. And that also explains a lot about the cancer. I knew several folks whose skill set and intellect peaked at O-1 and went downhill from there. Fortunately, most terminated at O-3. But none of what you said surprises me.

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  7. "12 O'Clock High" was also used by the Navy as a leadership training film during the 1980s=90s. A lot of good lessons there.
    John

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    1. Didn't know that, but it is a great movie and I'm overdue for another viewing.

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  8. Boy!
    You're really cooking, in every sense of the word.

    Another take on the situation:
    The service academies are 'elite' schools.
    The same people are attracted to them as are attracted to the civilian elite schools.
    The elites promote other elites based upon who rather than what.
    Yeah, there are exceptions, but...

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    1. That's a good point, and I hadn't thought of it that way.

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  9. I blame it on Gene Roddenberry and the Star Trek Universe.

    No. Really.

    Hear me out.

    On Gene's shows, the command always seemed to travel down to the senior officer available whenever our heroes left the ship or base, no matter what the specialty of the officer. Oh, the Doctor is the senior officer, or the Engineer, or some visiting officer... Or worse, let's put a science (tech) officer in charge of a warship (Janeway-not a line officer.)

    There are only two ways to clean it up.

    Presidential Fiat/Command Fiat: Where the grown-ups decide enough is enough and change the structure from within (I don't see this happening, by the way. Too many adult children involved in officer selection and retention - including those bloated toad children in Congress.)

    British Sub-Altern Method: "To Bloody Wars and Sickly Seasons!" No, seriously, really. A long, nasty war, involving lots of death of commanding officers and Penta-Weenies, by gun, bomb or germ. Look at the command structure before WWII and then at the end of WWII. I mean, Halsey would probably been cashiered for his mouth if not for the war. Or Patton. Doolittle would have been out. Lemay would never have risen to prominence (for good or ill, he got the job done, during the war. And he did build SAC into, well, SAC.)

    The Air Force has really screwed itself in the last 20 years. Just recently, in the last 2-3 years, it came out that the CAP that was sent to intercept the 9-11 airliners were unarmed, and the pilots were going to ram the planes. How the farque can you have 'ready interceptors' on call that aren't armed? WTF? And then, yesterday, it came out that the AF will be putting some bombers on 24 hour nuclear alert. Wait. WTF, over? They haven't had bombers on 24 hour alert? Ahhh, so much for the vaunted TRIAD of nuclear deterrent.

    As to AF Command, well, there should be 'Line' and 'Support' officer paths. There should be the possibility of transferring from one path to another. But only Line, or a few Support with line experience, should advance past a certain point. And the whole purpose of the organization, from cooks to spooks, is to support the people on the trigger end - pilots, aircrew, cyberwarriors, drone pilots, missile crews, parajumpers. Picture Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" and you'll see what I mean, if you consider the trigger pullers to be MI and all the other human military to be the support side.

    But, like the service academies, I don't know if the rot is too deep, too far gone, too many generations lost. I hope not.

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    1. Billy Mitchell WAS thrown out. He was right, as far as the air war in WWII was concerned, but didn't live long enough to have an "Tolja!" moment.

      I hadn't thought of the Roddenberry angle but there is some truth to that. But they do tend to look at the problem through a different lens. I wasn't particularly impressed with the one airlifter Air Force Chief of Staff. (Not that I've been particularly impressed with most AFCOS's. Fogleman I thought was pretty good for the ones during my career. "There is no peacetime mission which would necessitate penetration of a Thunderstorm." sounded like pretty good advice to me.

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    2. And then they named a bomber after him. The bastards. (Great movie, also. Talk about feckless senior officers, and a great portrayal of said officers.)

      Yes, the rot and recovery of our services is one ugly feedback wave, much like when you are flying really close and parallel to the ground, and you try to ride your plane, making corrections all the time, and the plane pitches up (good times) and down (bad times), each pitch getting worse, until either you pull up safely, pull up too hard (and explode, I've seen the pictures) or auger in. (This was the main reason my dad, sorry, didn't like the F4, as it's low-level handling characteristics (in 68 and 69, sucked. I am talking really low, like on-the-deck flying, not 'below 1000' flying.') Ah, that's the phrase my dad used (and got dark and haunted looking when he did.) Destructive Oscillation.

      The services are all oscillating violently right now, and the oscillations are getting worse. Hopefully they'll settle down before something untowards happens.

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    3. I'm going to have to look into that. There must have been some modification to the Phantom before I got into it. I've been above the Mach at low level (low enough that I didn't glance in to see the radar altimeter low) and always thought it was steady as a rock. Now, mind you, abrupt flight control inputs were frowned upon, by both backseater and the airplane.

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    4. My dad was on an AF project dealing with the Phantom going balls-to-the-wall at ground level, in 68 or 69. Hmmm, wonder what THAT was in relationship to.

      They lost a plane or two, and possibly a flight crew, if I remember the message between the lines on the burned paper of his mind (He was one of the people who believed 'classified' meant classified) due to pilot caused oscillation and plane-caused oscillation during high speed ground effect flying.

      He was fascinated with the F-15 and could watch them for ever on the tv or live. And he practically cried for joy watching the Blue Angels with the F-16s. He really liked planes that could be flown by the pilot, and not fly the pilot, so to speak.

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    5. Could be wrong, but I don't think the Blue's flew the F-16. All I've ever known them to fly were F-4, A-4 and F/A-18. The Eagle most definitely was flown by the pilot. The 16....well....the pilot gets a vote. But the guys I knew that flew it, loved it. Except for that GLOC thing of course.

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    6. Ah, crap. I meant the Thunderbirds. Sorry. Brain-dead. Boogidy boogity. Gone Batshort crazy and lost my brain.....

      Stupid inability to edit quickly.

      I meant the THUNDERBIRDS, gal-darndit!!!!

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    7. No worries, Mate. I was afraid my memory might be fading or something.

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  10. Is it true that all of the really intelligent people have read R.A. Heinlein?

    Paul

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    1. As a great American said a week or so ago, Yes (with one exception).

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  11. It is a maxim that generals always prepare to fight the last war. Your post makes it painfully clear that today's generals may be preparing to fight the last memo.

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    1. Some of the most painful battles I was ever in involved the wording of a memo. When I managed the AF's Information Warfare budget, I had a low level meeting between myself and two of the officers who worked two programs under my budget about whether a part could be used between the systems and, IF APPROVED, how we might be able to make it happened. Not half an hour after I informed him via memo of the problem, the discussions and options, I'm in my One Star's office with him in a spitting rage, screaming obscenities at me, for "going behind his back". Darleen Druyun was there in the office. At the time, she was my one star's equivalent and managed the maintenance of one of the systems I had discussed, and strongly felt that we should purchase more of the part vs use share the surplus between programs. She was later tried and convicted of corruption in the KC-767 program.

      Loved every firetrucking minute I was at the Northern Virginia Penitentiary for Wayward Fighter Pilots. Not!

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  12. The Navy does do a better job, and even the flyers ONLY compete against other flyers, with Flight Officers competing against Flight Officers, SWO's against SWO's, etc. And yes, even O-1s in the Navy have to manage people (read usually managed by the Chief, but he trains the Ensigns).

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    1. I didn't realize that it was broken down into the sub groups Flight Officers/NFOs. Now you're getting ready to compare apples to apples, even though they might be sour old Granny Smiths (F-16s) vs Golden Delicious (F-15s Of course). That still would be better than what we've got.
      Thanks

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  13. The promotions should always go to the Warriors first, as they are the reason for the services existence. Support staff are a requirement, but they can be trained and up to speed far faster that the Warriors.

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    1. Exactly. Hence the Rated Sup program. I can become a Personnel Officer much faster than a Personnel Office can become an Eagle Driver.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)