Friday, October 30, 2015

A Few Thoughts on Leadership

   The other evening, I had a chance to chat for a few minutes with a young man I first met about ten years ago.  At the time he was awaiting assignment after washing out of F-15 training and was told he would be going to EC-130H aircraft at Davis-Monthan.  He had been a navigator before pilot training, had been among the top of his class in pilot training, and wanted to go someplace where the mission would be more exciting then just flying in circles.

    We had chatted about a new aircraft AFSOC was just beginning to the field and he was very interested.  The U-28 is a light corporate aircraft we have adapted for battlefield surveillance.  My feeble attempts to get him an assignment went for naught, but he met someone who was flying the aircraft, and they introduced him to the Squadron Commander who was able to get his assignment changed.
I next ran into him about a year later and he was excited to be flying this aircraft, making a contribution to our combat operations.  A couple of more years passed and I ran into again and he was recently married with a young son.  He was starting to get burned out on the 90-days gone, 90-days home, 90-days gone routine and was hoping for a new assignment that would give him some control of his life.
This week was the first time we had a chance to chat in about three or four years and he and his wife now had three young children in tow on their way the Ci-Ci’s Pizza.  I asked how he was doing and he explained that he had gotten out of the Air Force at the 16-year point and has taken a job as a civilian contract instructor at the U-28 school house.  He had reached a point where he had to consider the needs of his family and their was little to no hope of the Air Force providing him a better or more stable life then they had this past decade.  The wars were not ending, the manning levels not improving, deployment schedules becoming less frequent, or a likelihood of a better job.  He was stuck in a cockpit with no way out except by getting out of the Air Force.
    Our commanders do a great job of telling everyone how important they are, but at the end of the day we make little effort to care for anyone other than those who seem preordained to be Generals.  At one point we had gone so far as to change the assignment codes for pilots and navigators on the staff so that anyone but a Special Ops pilot or nav could apply.  The argument was there were too few SOF aircrew to release them from the flying jobs.  Consequently, they are now coming up for promotion to senior ranks and do not compete with their peers who have had the opportunity to expand their skills.
    We wonder aloud why we have problems with retention and experience and look everywhere but at ourselves.  Every General I’ve worked for has had an agenda, every one sets goals and objectives, some want new aircraft, others think we can do everything ourselves, others believe we need the latest technology available.  We universally mourn the loss of warriors killed on the battlefield or in training, but we place the burden of the war on the shoulders of our young airman until they can no longer take it.  For the lucky this leads to a choice between their careers and their families, for too many it is a choice between life and death.  
If we are to face the cost of war, we must at some point have Generals who tell our politicians “We cannot do this without experienced and motivated people.” “You cannot shrink my active force to a level where we never allow the average Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine to control their own life and compete for a career in the service of his or her country.”  As it is we trade the welfare of our people for the brightest and shiniest new objects we can find.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Thoughts on Republican Stupidity

My views on the future for this country are getting pretty depressing.  When the media’s favorite Democratic candidate believes Republican’s are her enemies, and their favorite Republican candidate is a self-centered blowhard who enjoys belittling and insulting anyone who asks a hard question, then exactly what kind of leadership we expect out of the next election? When less then half the nation turns out to vote they reflect a distain for self-governing that begs for the totalitarian state.
Clearly the Democratic party understands and plays to this, condemning those who attempt to make hard choices or get in their way.  The President’s distain for consensus and a willingness to circumvent the Congress, and use the instruments of power to seek out his political enemies takes us closer to that state.  Think of it like Richard Nixon, except on 'roids.  Perhaps it is prophetic that the media has begun calling key political appointees czars, for as we continue down this path we will someday reflect the political landscape of Czarist Russia where connections to the right people equals work, and the political class rides on the backs of the serfs.
I didn’t watch the “Hillary and Enemies” reality show.  To be honest it didn’t interest me; I knew a year ago neither side was actually about improving security or reducing risk to Americans stationed in regions of conflict, or actually explaining the actions of the government once the attack began.  This administration made its choices and deflected the ramifications of those choices way back in 2012 when the majority of this country decided, as Ms. Clinton had, “At this point what does it matter?”  Oh sure there were some that cared, but the majority didn’t, or they would have asked hard questions of the President during the campaign.  Instead we saw people like Candy Crowley stepping in to help the President backtrack on the original administration position that the Libyan attack on 9/11 was a spontaneous uprising caused by someone upset by a video and not a preplanned event that could have been foreseen.
The fact the Republicans in the Congress have continued to make this an issue reflects just how out of touch they are with the evolving social willingness to hold no one responsible for anything, unless they can be publically flogged and berated on television.  I come to this conclusion in a quite straightforward manner.  Look at the news and entertainment industries, what do they condition the masses to want?  News on the latest celebrity overdose, the sexual roadshows of a variety of people who are famous for being famous, or condemnation of historical events in our past they find distasteful. 
Even the dimmest of House Republicans had to know Ms. Clinton would view this as an opportunity to show her superiority and distain, and when half the committee and a goodly percentage of the media are clearly functioning as her apologists then why would Republicans move forward with this piece of theater?  All they have done is feed the spin machine for the Democratic party faithful.

So what if Ms. Clinton has never really accomplished anything on her own, so what if she and her husband have made millions of dollars through selling their influence, why does it matter that she will take any position she sees as politically expeditious?  To her supporters at this point it just doesn’t matter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Visit to Gilbert’s Dairy

I think we were in 5th or 6th grade when we took a class trip back down the entrance way to Ralph R. Smith Elementary to visit a classmate’s family farm.  Charlie Gilbert was quiet, but carried himself with an easy confidence.  His family's farm was right next to the school.  I think this simple visit did more to inform and form my opinion on the value of family farming then all the rest of the media and national news opinions of the next 50 years put together.
This trip took place at just about the same time the Gilberts were expanding from a simple dairy farm into processing their own milk for retail sale.  Charlie’s dad took us through the barn where he showed us the milking stalls, and explained how the cows would come in twice a day to be milked.  In the process he talked a great deal about how the cows were cared for and grown.  He told us how important it was to keep the milking machines clean and sanitary, or the milk would be contaminated and the cows would get sick.
He then showed us the big blue silo they had recently installed and talked about how they harvested the corn to turn it into silage so they could feed it to the cows all winter.  The new type of silo was supposed to be glass lined which I assume kept the silage fresher and the cows happier. 
Finally, we toured the newly installed milk processing plant where they could pasteurize the milk before bottling into the final container.  The funny thing was, this was my second trip to a milk processing plant.  Way back when I was just a kid in third grade, going to school at Violet Avenue Elementary, we had a trip to Wayne Fitchett’s family dairy to see how milk was made. Of course that had been an up and running affair, taking in the raw milk and turning it into a variety of products they would sell through either direct delivery or as wholesale products to the supermarkets and stores in the area.

In the course of those few hours Mr. Gilbert taught us how farms worked, the importance of proper care and feeding of the stock, how raw material was transformed into finished products, and how much hard work goes into a successful farm.  In small and simple ways that trip taught me a lot about how important individual initiative and pursuit of a passion is to success in life.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I Wish

I Wish
“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride” my mother would chide when I asked for things outside her reach.  As I grew – I came to understand the importance of that saying.  For nothing is achieved without effort, desires fulfilled without personal investment leads to just more desires, and perhaps a loss of appreciation for the gift.  If everything is provided and nothing earned, then the question is what does that do to self-worth?
Ah well, that said we enter once again in the quadrennial right of passage for this nation.  A time when we will be bombarded with promises -- both sincere and not, condemnations, ad hominem attacks, elusive non-answers and flashy media propaganda, and as Christmas approaches I feel compelled set down my political wish list.
I wish for candidates who could explain the role of government so people could choose.
I wish for an electorate that demanded more then sound-bites of information.
I wish for a media that conveyed the news, not their opinion.
I wish for a government that lived within its means

I wish for politicians to inspire the nation to greatness, not condemn and divide us through their rhetoric.
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