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Chaos Manor Special Reports


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

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The BYTE Fiasco

Name Withheld to protect the innocent. I know the author of this.



Please post this anonymously. I can verify my "authenticity" in any manner you feel is necessary.

The problems the Army study has documented are similar to what I've personally seen as a Lt. and Junior Capt. in the USAF. There is little trust above the squadron level, and essentially zero trust above the wing level. One of the biggest gripes is the way the Military Personnel Command currently handles assignments. In the interest of fairness and to address the growing number of early separations, USAF aircrew are almost randomly assigned to their next assignment based entirely on shortfalls during the previous quarter. This results in large periods of units being overmanned or undermanned, and the late corrections and apparent lack of any planning whatsoever results in waves of "good deals" and "bad deals", neither of which have any relationship to the aircrew's experience, qualifications, career goals, or intentions to stay or leave the military.

The classic pattern repeating every single day in the USAF, goes something like this:

Young Capt. Smith gets his pilot wings, and goes to an operational squadron. He likes operational flying, although his squadron is undermanned and he's pulling 12 hour days plus doing janitor work because there are not enough junior enlisted members doing junior enlisted member jobs, and the civilian contractors come in only once a week.

Capt. Smith gets lucky, and his next assignment is also to an operational flying squadron. He progresses in his field, becomes an experienced instructor in his squadron, and takes command jobs within the squadron structure. He still works 12 hours a day, but now he's supposed to be the one organizing the rest of the pilots into trash detail. It's embarrassing when a Lt. Col is the only one emptying the trash, so the Lt's are kept busy emptying trash instead of studying tech manuals and tactics. Ah well, Capt. Smith is looking forward to pinning on major during his next assignment and since his squadron is still undermanned, he figures it might be smart for the USAF to give him another flying assignment.

Unfortunately, MPC decides that Capt. Smith needs to grab an M-16, hop into a HUMVEE, and drive around Korea for a year (or Germany for 2 years) as an Air Liaison Officer. Capt. Smith has no desire or intention to drive a jeep around, having made the decision long ago to join the USAF instead of the Army. Capt. Smith asks MPC to reconsider their assignment decision, but he's told that they don't bargain. Either he takes the assignment or he gets out.

Capt. Smith leaves the USAF after 9 to 12 years service (with zero retirement and no retirement account because military members aren't allowed to save up for their own retirement like the REST OF THE FREE WORLD), and he takes several million dollars of training and experience to the airlines who pay him according to the value of his skills, allow him a union to prevent steady decline of his medical and other benefits, and he never ever has to chase trash around the squadron again. He's now treated like a professional instead of a number, he's allowed to choose a career path and follow it, and he can change jobs or locations when the opportunity arises. He also is immediately eligible for company sponsored retirement plans and his benefits could potentially start after just a few years in the company.

Lt. Jones sees what happened to Capt. Smith, and he bails out as soon as possible.

MPC shouts FOUL! and overreacts by pushing more pilots out the door.

It's the same with comm/computers career field, maintenance, security police, pretty much every single field in the USAF. There seems to be very little personnel planning going on so it gets worse and worse. The simple example I used of a highly trained and (relatively) highly paid person being underused as a janitor also has parallel examples in every field. On the aircraft maintenance side, the severe lack of spare parts results in 10 aircraft rotating on the flying schedule using as few as 4 absolutely critical parts. 4 aircraft fly, the parts are pulled out as soon as they land, and are put in the next 4 planes. This wears out the parts unbelievably quickly, the wear and tear on connectors results in glitches that are almost impossible to track down and fix (one plug in the F-15E goes bad so often it's the first thing checked for many of the aircraft system problems), and our poor maintenance guys are working their tails off doing what they know in their hearts is an absolutely stupid exercise in futility.

Of course, since all 10 jets flew, the squadron shows up on the reports as fully mission capable...

Sorry about the rants, but it's the same all over the military. Take any 5 squadrons in the USAF and only 2 or 3 can be fully funded and capable at any one time. It's one of those issues that are "simple" funding problems, but the futility of the whole thing is one more reason to get out. The first year I was in an operational squadron, we ran out of copier paper. There was absolutely zero available funding, so the crews of the worlds premire strike fighter in the worlds premire air force spent hours every monday running around the base stealing paper from everyone else so we could run the squadron for one more week.

There should be absolutely no question in anyone's mind why there are retention problems in the US military. It's a tough stressful job with long hours, degrading benefits, and no apparent support from the top leadership. "Mission creep" affects everyone's day to day lives as not only are military units ordered into situations they're not trained for, but every time a manpower cut is made, the work doesn't go away. Someone else has to pick up the slack in addition to their primary duties. Upgrading the commisary or tacking an extra percent onto the pay scale isn't the answer but so far that's all they've come up with after looking at the problem for several years. Ah well, in a few years it'll be my time to decide whether or not I want to continue to participate. I honestly don't know if I'll stay in or not.

I could go on and on... The 50 page legal document we were required to read, memorize, and follow that evolved out of the desert storm rules of engagement. It was still called the ROE, but it required a briefing from a lawyer to explain... The wing commander can't cancel flying operations even during severe thunderstorms before 1400 hrs on a Friday without the permission of some general halfway across the state... Supply running out of flight suits... Learning that half of our chem warfare suits were defective... I'll quit now and hit send before I start calling people names.