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Smoke doesn't always mean fire Part I

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Air Force "Deep Dive" on Suicides Lands in the Shallow End

A year ago this week I wrote an article about what I believed was an impending and escalating suicide problem afflicting the Air Force. I was using my own military service, as well as information from my colleagues still serving, to piece together bits of information on suicides. In so doing I noticed a trend. But, before I get started a reminder: I am not an expert on mental health and nothing I say should be interpreted as medical advice.

As I wrote the article, more suicides were happening. I initially believed the issue was local to Holloman Air Force Base. However, as 2019 progressed it was clear this epidemic wasn't the exclusive domain of the 54th Fighter Group.

Prior to the Air Force announcing they had a suicide problem, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act[FOIA] request to the SecAF requesting all suicide metadata, to include Air Force Specialty Codes[AFSCs], or "job" data from 2009 to 2019. Three days after my request, the Air Force announced there was a …

I'm not dead or anything

Man, it's been awhile huh?

The last time I published an article was in February. Why the long break? Well, it's complicated.

My last article was posted at about the 1 year anniversary of my retirement. I had moved to my forever home in my forever state and started a new job. The new job was helping low income and first generation [college] veterans enroll in undergraduate programs all across the great State of Maine.

It was the first time in I can't remember how long where my job produced essentially zero stress. More importantly, my entire job was to help veterans reach their goals. Something that I craved since my retirement.

I didn't know what this blog was when I first started it. Really, I just wanted to tell a story I had been holding for a long time. Then it gave me the opportunity to relay some of the lessons I learned through my career.

Eventually the stories seemed a little less relevant and moved into current Air Force and military events with my critique o…

The Frivol-atility of Media Mismanagement

The following is an op-ed from Majora K. Vocink a dedicated reader of the blog and someone that I have served with over my 20 year career.

In an age when the necessity for field work in public outreach grows less and less with each technological advancement, the need for responsible and focused messaging via social media and other public platforms is paramount to the message’s success.While the vast majority of content generated by public affairs divisions across the Air Force is typically and benignly oriented towards serving the community, occasionally the typical morphs into the atypical.In such cases, the presentation of the message overpowers the message itself, and one misrepresentation undermines the strength of the message entirely.At best, it can come off as frivolous, and at worst, volatile.



Just such a miscalculated media effort recently came at the expense of the professionals at Hill AFB.Entitled The Big Picture - PSA #1  (seen above) the video intends to pan the lens fur…

When you meet a good leader you know it Part VI

In the beginning of this blog I tried to balance between stories of toxic leaders and stories of leaders that had made a positive impact on my career. Recently I've moved away from that balance to tell the long story that ended my career, and to address topics that were bothering me about the maintenance community or that I thought would have a catastrophic impact on maintenance. But it's time to bring some balance back to the blog.

In 2013 I was working in the 308th Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Luke Air Force Base. We had just climbed out of a maintenance death spiral and were moving in a good direction. I had a fantastic AMU Chief and a smart and hardworking AMU OIC.

Our Lead Production Superintendent was retiring, and they were bringing in a SMSgt I had never heard of before. Like our Chief, he was a PCS transplant, not a manning move from within MXG.

Most of the Lead Pro Supers I had known in my career were in varying states of stress. The jets were never cooperating, the…

Suicide is the symptom.

I want to preface this article by saying 'I am just an F-16 crew chief.' I do not have any medical training and all of these opinions are just that, opinions. I believe we have a suicide problem in the Air Force, and in aircraft maintenance in particular. Part of the problem is data is very hard to come by.  There is some data, and it even goes so far as to break down the determined method. However, the data is meta-data at best and doesn't explain all the nuances of each situation.

But the data to the right here is quite alarming. Almost half of all deaths [69 of 151] in the Air Force from August 2016 to August 2017 was caused by a self-inflicted injury. [Raise your hand if you just learned that half of the people that die in the Air Force committed suicide]

What prompted me to write about this subject now is that there have been two suicides in the same Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base in the last month. I don't have any details on the motiva…

So what's with the 7 levels?

I recently asked in a Facebook post what are some subjects you the readers wanted me to write about. I received quite a few great suggestions, but one stood out as a topic that I haven't quite addressed and I believe its time is due: inexperienced 7 levels. [I will apologize in advance, this one has quite a bit of acronyms.]

Before I dive into the topic I think it's important to explain my own journey to a 7 level, and it goes all the way back to MEPS. You see, like many aspiring Airmen I didn't know what job I would get when I joined the Air Force; I came in open mechanical. Which to me seemed strange, because mechanical was my lowest ASVAB score. My recruiter assured me that my score would allow me many mechanical jobs to pick from. I tried to explain that the ASVAB was an aptitude test, and I should be selected for a job that matched my highest category. He seemed apathetic, obviously meeting his quota was his motivator, not me aligning my career to my aptitude.

To say…

What we are doing about the crisis in aircraft maintenance

A few months ago I took a slight detour from my normal blog posts to address a mandate from the Secretary of Defense[SECDEF], James Mattis.

In that mandate, SECDEF directed F-16, F-35, F-22 and F-18s to achieve a ready state of 80%. Translated for aviators and maintainers, that's an 80% MC rate. No easy feat, however an attainable and pragmatic goal given proper resources and time. SECDEF directed compliance with the readiness standard by the end of FY19 [October 2019]. Like many, I believed that timeline would translate to an unbearable work environment for the average aircraft maintainer.

I was wrong... and right.

What I learned from countless conversations and interviews from front line supervisors in the field was surprising.

I discovered that in a small amount of units, leadership was largely ignoring the mandate. Weekend duty and long shifts were still driven by the same schedule demand as before the mandate. However, there didn't appear to be any stat chasing. I believ…