Defending America
David Hackworth
19 February '97

A MILITARY THAT'S ABOUT TO CRASH AND BURN

Here's an edited version of a letter that's buzzing around the Air Force. Sit down before reading, it'll break your heart.

"Dear Boss,"

" I'm ... getting out. Why get out when I'm more than halfway to the big 20 year gold watch? Why give up a promising career after 2,500 hours in fighters... flight commander, time in combat... with all the right tickets?...

"I'm getting out for a lot of reasons. I'm tired. I've been told to do more with less ... put in 12-14 hour days during the week, flying and then putting out ... the same fires over and over again."

"Does anybody else do more with less? Not from my vantage. Sure (Personnel) and support are undermanned, too. Funny, their parking lots look empty on Saturday. Are they just working smarter or doing less?"

"Let's see I can't get my records corrected properly for 18 months before the promotion board, even though ... (Personnel) opens at 0830, has reduced manning from 1000 to 1300 for lunch, closes at 1500 daily, isn't even open on Fridays due to a function..."

"The same holds true for a flight physical. I've got a three month zone, but the hospital has four available appointments during the entire time... Meanwhile, my family can't get an appointment without me making a call, and then they get treated rudely..."

"Everyone in the Air Force has gotten the clue - do less with less... We've got 24 Jets, but can only put 10 up. The kids on the ramp... are working their butts off. They've got the same 'leadership' problems that we do. (The generals and senior chiefs) ... all trained from the get-go to say 'no' to any suggestions from the line... I have yet, in over 15 years, to see one of these types out there during an exercise, checking to see if the troops are OK -- hot food and drinks when it's cold, or rest and shade when it's hot."

"A crew chief busts his head on a jet, I call that night to see if he's OK ... and I find out that in 10 years, he's never had an officer check on him after a spill."

"What we lack is some form of respect and loyalty from those in our immediate chain of command. Respect and loyalty are a two way street. To them, to you, sir, we're considered whiners and not team players when we ask the simple 'why' question."

I've been off to war four times in my career. Some of them big, like Desert Storm, some small like Panama, and some of them just plain weird like Haiti..."

"You all have shown me that real war is bad for a career. When we were hanging it out - outnumbered, out gunned, out everything except outfought - I didn't see one of the fast burners around. They were at Staff school, or in some other highly competitive billet.

"Nope, the only place I've seen the brass plated 'leaders' has been in the 'other' wars -- the ones where there is no shooting but we can all log combat time and get Air medals. I've got news for you sir, those Air Medals lose their luster when everybody gets them just for showing up."

"I've been lied to or misled or 'had the rules changed' too many times... I'm not willing to pay the price anymore. I'm not willing to be in a system where the reward for a job well done is more punishment; where it's not as important how you do your job so much as it is how you make it look."

"In short sir, I'm tired of getting lied to and of having the guys in charge think I'm too stupid to notice the lies. Sure, the rules change on the outside too..., but in the Air Force, it's only an illusion of job security."

If you replace Air Force with Army, Navy or Marine Corps these comments apply. I get about 400 such messages a week from the people who do the dirty work.

Except for during the Vietnam War I've never heard more horror stories.

The brass hat bosses have got to shape up or our armed forces will implode.

Thank God, the Soviets are dead.

The End