Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Rush of Air

Above my desk is a piece of art, commissioned when we lived in England.  It depicts an airplane -- landing gear up, ramp and door closed, captured in flight.  In the background is another, different aircraft, in a slight right bank, as if it is about to break formation.

The first aircraft, the one in the foreground, is a Lockheed MC-130E, Combat Talon, painted in its Vietnam era black and dark green camouflage.  The other is a Douglas A-1E Skyraider, also in the color scheme of Vietnam.  Both are on this picture to remind me of the history of the 1st Special Operations Squadron and my time in that unit.
Back when I was in the 1st SOS we were one of only five remaining squadrons in the Air Force with a direct link to the heritage of the massive force that had existed only a few years prior.  There were, at one point, hundreds of aircraft and thousands of men who lived to do those things the regular Air Force couldn’t.  They flew aircraft left over from World War II, from bases most people didn’t know about.  Whether they were gunships, or transports, helicopters or fighters, they shared common traits: commitment, audacity, and courage.   Many came home, but many did not.  At one time the Tomb of the Unknowns, at Arlington National Cemetery, honored the remains of a pilot from the 8th SOS, until DNA testing was able to reunite him with his family.
Since that time long ago, Air Force Special Operations has grown and expanded far beyond what any of us would have imagined possible back in 1980.  It is a natural byproduct of war.  When there is a conflict there are those who must place themselves in harms way and special operations draws those who seek to be the first called. 
I guess we’ve really been at war since I came into this fraternity.  I think of my journey and the changes the world has brought, and I miss the rush of air past the window as we flew down a canyon with our wing tips just feet from the walls on either side and the ground rushed past us in a dark and formless blur.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Random Friday Thoughts

Ø  How did we capture the moment before cameras?
Ø  People are only reasonable if they agree with you.
Ø  If the National Park service establishes a national park on the moon, when they finally get there and find the American flag we left in 1969 has the red and blue washed out will they replace it?
Ø  Does the continuous bombardment of meteorites cause holes in the atmosphere and increase global warming?
Ø  When will we cool sufficiently not to have to worry about volcanos?
Ø  Was Mona Lisa looking at Michelangelo’s David when Leonardo de Vinci painted her?
Ø  Wouldn’t we be safer if we made nuclear power plants in the form of submarines in a dry dock? 
Ø  How long will we stay Orange on the Homeland Security Risk assessment?
Ø  If we are worried about the polar ice cap, should we stop using ice in our drinks?
Ø  If wind turbines are grown on farms are they an annual or a perennial?
Ø  Space flight is hazardous to all living things.
Ø  Where does the crease go on my permanent press pants?
Ø  All politicians are egotists, but not all egotists are politicians.
Ø  Do Yin, Yang, and Karma apply to Caucasians?
Ø  Is there an acceptable moral argument for war?
Ø  Do we still have inalienable rights?

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Few Thoughts on War

Humanly speaking, war is an unfortunate consequence of being human.  The animal kingdom has conflict, but it is usually on the one on one level, until we get up to the higher order primates.  We, on the other hand, have developed tools, and have spent much of our collective creativity finding new ways to dominate an opponent.  Starting from rocks we have progressed to where we are today, where a few members of a dedicated group can kill thousands.
If we are to survive as a nation there are times we must fight, and there are other times we should seek a diplomatic solution.  For, as Baron von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu note, the use of military force is truly an extension of politics.
If we look back on our rather limited (237 years) history we have seen our military used and misused, to support those political decisions, and we have seen our own shortcomings in the military application.  There are times we have been extremely successful because we have the national commitment, and times we’ve failed because we didn’t.  But in all cases, our success depended on a strong political leadership, comfortable to give mission guidance and allow a committed set of Generals with the vision to create a sound operational strategy that would be executed by strong and capable force.
As we have seen in Afghanistan and then Iraq, our military has the ability to overthrow a government, but without the strategic vision and political support to fill the vacuum we create, what comes next is very, very, painful.  Or as we saw in Vietnam, when the politicians make the tactical decisions and limit the military authorities and options we end up with a situation we can’t win and that will have long-term international implications.
I’ve have listened to how the Syrian’s have violated the international norm, and how the UN is paralyzed; so therefore we must punish the act to reinforce the norm so other’s will not violate it.  If this is to be the criteria for our international actions then I foresee a troubled future for us.  With due respect to Senator McCain who has said repeatedly there will be “no boots on the ground,” I am convinced that surgical strikes from the air cannot prevent a future use of chemical weapons.  Airpower is critical to any successful modern campaign, but putting aside the bomber studies of post WW II, alone it cannot effect change.
I am hopeful our President can explain to the nation what a successful conclusion to any hostility would look like, for as I try to explain to my subordinates, if you don’t know what success looks like, how will you know if you have or have not achieved it?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day & Procrastinating Thoughts

Labor Day, with a threat of Thunderstorms keeping me from the golf course, and watching the primer coat dry on an umbrella base for the porch what better time to sit and ramble on?
How about those fast food workers in major cities across the nation on strike for higher wages? The Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, lauds the strike and equates it to Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, 50 years ago.  Personally, I am hard pressed to see the similarity.  On the one hand, you have a race of people fighting for recognition and equality, on the other you have an unskilled labor force wanting more pay.  For me, what is so disheartening in this strike is we have created an entry class worker who see’s no alternatives to moving up and out of that job.  I hope they all get the $15.00 per hour they are striking for, but I also wonder if they understand the outcomes they will see if they achieve it?   If our Secretary for Labor cannot grasp the cause and effect implications I doubt they do. 
The Media on War…  Going back at least as far as William Randolph Hearst, the news media has pushed the US into war.  Some would suggest it is based on a desire for social justice and right thinking, while others might be so crass as to suggest it was about selling more newspapers.  This week it appears we have found something that ABCNNBCBS and FOX can agree on.  They are all pushing the government towards conflict.   Of course in a few months when things go terribly wrong they will be questioning why we could ever have chosen such a course.  I love the news media; their analysts can second-guess any decision.
Here in my little spot in the Southeast we have had an abundance of rain, but nary a tropical storm to bring it.  Back in May NOAA predicted an “above average” year with 13 to 20 named storms.  I can’t remember a time NOAA and the experts in Colorado haven’t predicted an above average year.  In early August they again reinforced that prediction that the season will be very active.  Here we are in September, and for the first time in 11 years there were no Atlantic hurricanes in August. I wonder if maybe they should do just a little bit of maintenance on their crystal ball?
I hope everyone has a great Labor Day, sharing time with family, friends, and neighbors.  Take a moment or two and reflect on the contributions of our labor force and what their future may hold.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Parenting, and Life in General

Wouldn’t life be great if we had a “How To” manual on parenting?  That way everyone could be perfect, the colleges could teach psychologist’s and social workers to just make sure the parents were following the book and everything would be fine.  The government could test parents on the book before they allowed anyone to have a child, and Planned Parenthood could offer classes on how to pass the government test without really studying. 
If everyone followed the book; children wouldn’t be abused, develop insecurities, be traumatized by bad parents, or lack in self-confidence.   School ground bullies would cease to exist, all would be all inspired to learn and grow up to be perfect parents themselves because they would know to follow the book.
Social justice and social equality would appear overnight because everyone was using the book and were, so to speak, on the same page.  The grass would grow greener, the sky would be bluer, the air would be cleaner because we would have a book that teaches parents how to grow perfect children who will make the planet better off than they found it.
You know, we have a lot of “how to manuals” and maybe that’s the problem?  We can’t seem to settle on just one that everyone can follow.  The government keeps changing our collective minds on what is right, or what is wrong.  The parents all read different books and consequently their children grow up with different perspectives on right or wrong.  Teacher’s get caught in the middle; trying to figure out what book each parent is using and adjusting their standards to them and the children, or maybe just choosing to use their own book.
At one time, in our history, this country had a lot of space and very little government.  Parents were expected to do the best they could raising their children, and if they made a mistake or two that was the unfortunate cost of parenting.  The critical thing for parents was if they didn’t do a good job with their kids they wouldn’t have someone to look to in their later years.  Someone who accepted personal responsibility and could care for them, and take over whatever business they were doing. 
Now, as our population has grown, we are filling up the available space, and government has grown to fill up our lives.  With fewer and fewer exceptions we have become nomads, where the idea of permanence and generations of family in one location is a distant memory.  It sure would be good if we had a book to know what to do.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...