David H. Hackworth
28 April 98
COMING IN ON A WING AND DISPAIR
Pilots are leaving the Air Force like fleas jumping off a dead dog. If this exodus in blue doesn't stop, there won't be anyone left to fly the existing megabuck fleet of aircraft or the trillion dollar fleet of space-age new fighters the Air Force wants for the 21st century.
Without pilots it's going to be even harder to justify all these costly new silver bullets when a congressperson or two without bases or flying machine plants back home comes asking, "Who needs these suckers when missiles, robots, bugs and germs, and 16-year-old hackers will be the weapons of the future?"
The Air Force brass are panicked. They could be put out of business. So they're throwing money at the pilots heading out the front gate.
But money isn't the reason these good folks are walking. They want leadership. They want the top brass to set the example, do the hard right over the easy wrong and stop the spin maneuvers.
The Air Force senior brass are as corrupt as Mafia bosses. I learned this when I exposed a four star who was flying high with a sweet young thing. The general was culpable but walked because a pack of colonels lied. None of the liars were punished and one even made liar of the year when he was promoted to general.
And everyone knows about Kelly Flinn. She did heavy bombing practice with the husband of an air women and became the most talked about pilot since Captain Scott O'Grady ate Bosnian worms.
The Air Force brass publicly called her a liar and an adulterer and wanted to line her up against the wall. But Sheila "Politically Correct" Widnall, Secretary of the Air Force, chose to stop the bad ink by letting her zoom away from certain slammer time.
But at about the same time as Flinn sinned, Air Force Major Annamaria Alba was flying high with Air Force Major Mitchell Valder and not in airplanes. Her retired Air Force husband Captain Roy Alba, seeking to save his marriage, asked the brass to weld Valder's zipper shut.
Alba didn't fool around. He went to the main welder, Air Force Chief of Staff General Ronald Fogleman, who promised to investigate.
He also told Brigadier General Walter "Buck" Buchannan, who said, "I can't say what will happen, but I'll guarantee you it won't stop here."
Alba contacted Major Valder's base and told Colonel Robert Gibson that Valder had broken the Big Commandment and that he not only had witnesses, he'd captured the sleazoid mess on tape. Gibson said he would tell Valder to back off.
Almost two years have passed and all Alba's gotten is lies and the run around. Fogleman, not wanting another Air Force adultery case on prime time, doubled-talked until he dodged the whole issue for good by hanging up his flight suit and heading for the safety of his Colorado ranch.
Everywhere Alba's turned for help he's been stonewalled. Records of investigation have disappeared or been whitewashed, and Freedom of Information Act requests have been ignored.
Alba says "The Flinn case was a PR nightmare for the Air Force. If they simultaneously court-martialed my wife and Kelly Flinn, this would have been a double PR nightmare."
The Air Force, which is starting to looking like an act on "The Jerry Springer Show" these days, says there's been "no fraternization" and both Air Force officers' "conduct was professional."
The main issue of Conduct Unbecoming 101 was swept under the rug for the same reason Scott O'Grady was made a phony national hero for allegedly screwing up and getting his plane shot down over Bosnia.
Public relations over doing the truth. Spin over integrity. Deceit over justice.
You can't fool the troops, which is why they're leaving the Air Force in such unparalleled numbers. And this mass departure will continue until integrity returns to the Air Force's top ranks.
There are plenty of Billy Mitchells wearing the Blue Suit. But things will only change when they're put in charge, and the corrupt three- and four-stars follow Fogleman's swift retreat.
Defense Secretary William Cohen better sweep out the hangers before he needs to ask Hertz Air Rental to take over what's left of our Air Force.