Archive for September, 2007

The Blame Game

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Once the fingers start pointing, the Air Force is in for a reorganization of epic proportion

Back in SAC, when a wing failed an ORI, the commander was fired.  Even though everyone knew that a wing could bust an ORI for a lot of things that were probably beyond the immediate control of the wing commander, it was certain that the commander was gone when the wing failed, for three reasons.

First of all, if you ever do it, nuclear warfare will be the most serious thing you ever do.  Do it wrong, and you may kill multitudes that don’t need to die, or worse yet, you’ll leave the wrong people alive, who in-turn, will kill multitudes that don’t need to die.  That’s serious stuff.

The second reason for firing a commander is that the blame was easy to assign.  The commander at any level is the reason the commanders below him have their jobs.  If he didn’t have confidence in them, he’d replace them.  So at the very least, the commander displayed incompetence by trusting the wrong people to handle things for him.

Finally, replacing a commander is the best way to flush any system.  When a new wing commander came to power, he was certain to clean out any of the subordinate commanders who had not lived up to the trust of their previous commander.  Self-preservation is a powerful instinct.  Another ORI was certain to come over the horizon after he had been given adequate time to rebuild his organization.

During my last few years in the Air Force, many of the aviators who grew up in SAC were often dismissed as dinosaurs of a by-gone era.  The new bomber aviators were assimilated into a near-clone of the system that the fighter community was comfortable with.  They referred to SAC as the “S-Command” and were bold enough to say they didn’t want to hear stories about the water-wagons we used to fly or the alerts we used to pull.  The mantra was, “the only thing you need to know about the N-mission, is that it’s easy.”  And we learned to silently accept nearly blasphemous statements like, “We’re sick of hearing how it used to be done.”  Or even the occasionally slam, “We didn’t really know much in those days.  We’re much smarter now.”  And one of the surest ways to get them riled up was to say, “Back in SAC . . .”

Well, let me reminisce for a moment.

In days of old, when SAC was bold, and nothing was more important than the status of your weapons; we verified the numbers and settings and checked them every day.  We were good at it.  And we took it seriously.  It wasn’t a secondary mission.  We didn’t need a small group of certified experts to tell us how to use them or to count them for us.  We were all experts in our weapons, tactics, and procedures, and our commanders expected nothing less than that.

Unless we find a criminal very close to the crime scene, how can we stop the blame from marching right up the chain of command, through the wing, the numbered air force, the major command and even higher when we lose a load of nuclear weapons?

Before the Air Force starts figuratively lobbing the heads off of commanders, who are operating in a system they were force-fed since the dissolution of SAC, we need to take a serious look at why we changed just about everything we used to do.  Maybe we’re not so much smarter now.  Maybe the dinosaurs weren’t so dumb, and maybe they had some of it right.

It just makes sense.