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Coming in on wing and despair
Posted By David Hackworth On 05/06/1998 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
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 airwoman 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 about the same time as Flinn sinned, Air Force Maj. 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
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 hangars before
he needs to ask Hertz Air Rental to take over what’s left of our Air
If just a tenth of what comes my way from the troops is true, our Air
Force is really in deep trouble.
True, I don’t see a big role for the Air Force way down the track.
Say by 2020 or so, when Saddam Hussein and Kim Il Jung will have joined
Hitler and Stalin six feet under and the computer hackers and bug
sprayers have become the heavy hitters.
But in the meantime, we need the Air Force to take care of the
Saddams and Jongs just like we need the Navy to keep our sea lanes open
and a ground force to fight the dirty little fights which will keep
exploding in cities around the world, including our own. And that’s why
we continue to lay out over $70 billion a year in defense dollars for
the Air Force alone.
I think it’s too late to ask the Air Force senior leaders to look in
the mirror and ask themselves what they’ve become instead of unleashing
their prime attack dogs, the thousands of flacks that run their Air
Force $100 million dollar per year propaganda machine, whenever
criticism or internal disasters come their way.
Instead of genuinely looking into the problems — past and present
corrupted officer promotion system; current lousy combat readiness; low
morale and high attrition rate; The B-1, B-2, F-22 turkeys — they just
damage control over them and keep covering up. Which drives the troops
But when the Pentagon bank divides up the defense loot, the Air Force
always gets the biggest share. And maybe that’s where the trouble
starts. Money corrupts and too much dough corrupts completely. When Air
Force brass check out, too many of them whip through the revolving door
and cash in with big jobs from the very guys who make the stuff they
used to fly/use/buy.
Defense Secretary Cohen has got to do to the Air Force what General
George Marshall did to the Army in the early 40s when he fired a lot of
brain-dead and tired old men. Corrupt senior Air Force brass have got to
go and this shouldn’t include more trips through the revolving door.
Don’t forget to watch FOX “Washington Classified” on 7 May for the
Special Ops in Mogadishu Story that I discussed in detail in last week’s
column. Mark your calendar.
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