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When a leader is a shit leader Part II

Due to the sensitive nature of this post some names have been changed.

The American military has a unique and critical role in society; the protection of the people and more importantly the preservation of our freedoms. However, the fact the role is critical doesn't exempt members of the military from being treated in a humane manner. If you are questioning my use of the term humane read on...

Two months ago I wrote about when my supervisor and AMU assistant superintendent SMSgt Ridgway reluctantly let exhausted maintainers go home in lieu of possibly being injured due to lack of sleep. He seemed to have an inability to understand the human experience which was perplexing because from his outward appearance he seemed to be a human.

In March of 2016 I was moved from my position as a Specialist Section Chief to the coveted position of Support Section Chief. I still attended the morning production meeting however my involvement was almost entirely advisory with the exception of a single slide on Thursdays.

On one particular day I stayed behind after a meeting. I didn't stay behind because I was interested or asked to remain, I was just too lazy to get up from the table and start my day. SMSgt Ridgway had stayed behind to speak with MSgt Stromski our Lead Production Superintendent.

Ridgway was concerned about the NCOIC of Debrief, TSgt Johansen, and because Stromski was his supervisor he was discussing it with him. The concern was that Johanesen's father had recently passed away and he seemed depressed. Ridgway wanted Stromski to talk to Johansen and make sure he sought help from a chaplain or mental health.

If the conversation had ended there it would be a good example of a leader looking after a subordinate. However, it did not end there.

The discussion quickly devolved into Ridgway expressing his irritation at Johansen's demeanor and how Johansen being sad was having a negative affect on Ridgway. Ridgway stated that a grown man shouldn't be acting like that and at one point referred to Johansen as a cry baby.

As I listened I found myself at a loss of words. I couldn't believe what I was hearing and Ridgway's callousness caught me mentally flatfooted and unable to articulate any sort of rebuttal.

After the meeting I approached Stromski to make sure I had heard correctly. Stromski verified that Ridgway had in fact said what I thought and he also agreed that he was appalled at what Ridgway had said and how he said it.

Days later I sent an email to Ridgway to express my discontent with his behavior in this situation among others. Below is an excerpt of that email:

A few days later I sat down with Ridgway to talk about my concerns, one of which was his maltreatment, albeit privately, of TSgt Johansen.

Here's the audio of the brief discussion.

My first impression is that his apology was a non-apology; or as the kids call it Sorry-Not-Sorry.

Let's look at his word choice for framing the apology.

"Yeah I didn't need to state that out in public"

This statement implies that what he said wasn't wrong, just that the audience wasn't proper. So right off the bat he has failed to recognize the core of my complaint: He lacks empathy.

He follows it with "He's on a better track now" implying that without his intervention Johansen may not be. He does this to justify what he said the other day.

He says "I do apologize for stating that in that manner" This is the closest we will ever get to an actual apology. I give it a C-

After some mutterings about how Stromski was better equipped to address the issue Ridgway doubles down on his callousness to mock Johansen's anguish while mimicking crying and whimpering.

To which he replies "I can't!, I can't communicate with someone is like that" and that Johansen may "take it the wrong way" Gee you fucking think?

In my experience there is a time when a switch is thrown as a section chief. Where you begin to understand the problems and challenges in your subordinates life are not annoyances but are rather your job to help them with.

The time it takes to throw that switch is different for everyone, it could be a day, a month or even a year. But it's an important part of growing a Senior NCO in maintenance.

Often we see upcoming and favored leaders get placed in the section just long enough to receive the section chief EPR and then promptly moved into the Production section again. I think this does a tremendous disservice to the individual because if they don't 'get' the section chief process they are severely handicapped as they climb higher in the SNCO tier. Ridgway is one example: A callous maintainer that only sees subordinate life events as an annoyance. Of course in Ridgway's case, even 3 years spent in a section wouldn't have grown him a heart. If anything it just would've served to torture his section.


  1. 14 year SSgt F-16 Avionics. Best line. "We reward yes men and cowards with promotion." Without a doubt this is so true. In one of the comments below they said it's nothing more than a promotion RACE. We promote people with little to no actual experience. We have an expeditor who recently made Tech.... he had been in for 6 years, and only been aircraft mx for 3. Again he is a yes man and will not stand up for his guys. It is very difficult for the guys like myself to keep going and be motivated when we constantly are being looked over for promotion because we speak our minds. Hopefully there is a change in the HYT soon to keep some of the NCO experience from being kicked out.


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