Friday, January 13, 2012

Is the Warrior Ethic Still Viable

The author of this piece is Dr. John Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy. He writes about what is occurring in the Naval Aviation community and he does it with great insight.

Recently there have been numerous items circulating with similar themes. It isn't unique to the Navy. The Air Force has a parallel if not identical issue.

At first I simply wrote it off as just another circulation of military griping. We did it in the immediate post-Vietnam era as the adjustment to peacetime operations required a bit of throttling back. We saw it during the mid-'80s with the now famous "Dear Boss" letter. It came around again ten years ago with an update of the "Dear Boss" to current issues, but still the same problem. Now it is top-level Boss writing about the problem in the hope that maybe a cultural epiphany could still save the spirit.

Where Warriors and Why Military Politicos?

Is this just griping?

I don't think so. In the last two months I got to visit a couple of places. In one I saw young students, eager and aggressive, competitive and professional seeking to continue with the heritage of military aviation. They were not only US, but NATO allies. Students and instructors alike were a slice of free-world military aviation. They had the spirit. The mentioned old jets, but they had what they needed and they knew how to get the most out of it.

Then I saw a USAF operational training base. The facilities were amazing compared to the period when I thought we had it pretty good. But within 36 hours I could tell the jets were tired, the crews were over-tasked, the leadership was frustrated and at all levels they looked to a dismal future. They saw cut-backs in modernization and protracted high op-tempo. They saw pending assignments to drone ops. They saw a promotion system that rewarded yes-men and punished warriors. They saw arbitrary rulings and stifling of e'sprit without any justification.  They were a grim force, simply hanging on.

Fighter pilots are different. Some say better, some say worse. Some say arrogant others call it confident. Some say immature, others say aggressive. All say that they prevail even when it seems impossible. Will they? It seems impossible again.

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