Skip to main content

Smoke doesn’t always mean fire Part IV



If you haven’t read this story from the beginning I recommend you start here. Also I am going to provide some insights that you might wonder 'But how does he know?' I assure you I will provide the references in a future blog. But for now I am trying to keep this story chronological for your benefit.

Tyler ended up recovering fully from his ordeal. Although the LOR stayed in his PIF for as long as I was in the Air Force, I don’t believe any of his supervisors or commanders gave it any consideration. However, our story doesn’t end there…

I recorded the meeting with Lt Col Martin in early November 2015. After Tyler was situated I didn’t really have a reason to keep it. I probably only kept it out of habit. Because deleting it was more trouble than it was worth.

I believe the incident with Tyler was the driving factor for my removal as the 311th AMU specialist section chief. I think I was perceived as ‘combative’ or ‘difficult’ Lt Col Martin likely wanted someone in the section that was easier to muscle around.

In April 2016, right at my 1 year mark in the section, I was moved to the 311th support section [tool room]. While there is nothing explicitly wrong with the support section, I felt it was a waste of my talents. But, I wanted to make the best of it so I set about meeting my new team and seeing what I could do to help out.

My tenure in support was very short lived. Two weeks later there were rumors I was going to be moved to the 314th production office. After being in support for only 5 weeks I was approached by my AMU Chief and was told that the following Monday I would be moving to the 314th to be the Lead Pro Super.

I asked for the rest of the afternoon off to close out my desk in support and to meet with the 314th leadership to discuss expectations for the new job. When I say expectations I don’t just mean for my own performance, but also what I needed from leadership to function in the new position.

I agreed to do the job on the condition that I would not be subjected to micromanagement from the squadron [read: resident despot and sycophant Chief Fraley]. The AMU leadership nodded enthusiastically signifying they both understood who I was talking about and in understanding of the climate I was referring to. The 314th AMU Chief assured me that the squadron didn’t meddle in the AMU much and he would give me the room to do my job.

I was micromanaged almost immediately. It’s hard to say if it was because Fraley is a small man that is incapable of trust; or if the following story incited him to punish me every way he could. Regardless of the reason, the result was a miserable work environment.

I began my first week getting turn over from the previous Lead Pro Super;  a guy that was clearly in over his head and drowning in the most mundane and simple tasks. By Tuesday I was on my own and holding my own. After the scheduling meeting I received a lot of positive feedback from those in attendance.

That Thursday I went to the afternoon production meeting at the Fighter Group. By this time Lt Col Martin was spending most of his time at the Fighter Group although he did still have authority over the AMXS while awaiting his replacement at the squadron.

As I walked down the hallway of the group building I noticed Lt Col Martin standing in a doorway. He was wearing his full service dress uniform which was a bit odd. I continued into the conference room and took my place at the table and began getting my notes and status sheets in order for the briefing.

Lt Wright, who was the Maintenance Operations Flight commander, asked who was chairing the afternoon production meeting. I responded that I had seen Lt Col Martin in the hallway but he was wearing his blues. Lt Wright responded Lt Col Martin would likely not be chairing the meeting because he was serving on a court martial.

The meeting was chaired by another deputy group commander and completed without issue.

On my way home it struck me.

Lt Col Martin was on a court martial. What did that mean? Was he a witness? Was he on trial? Or was he a juror? I tried to imagine what his role could be, where he was unavailable for the entire week. The only logical conclusion was that he was a juror.

Then I thought about Tyler, and how he was treated. I pitied anyone that was on trial with Lt Col Martin serving on the jury. After his repeated toxic administrative and punitive actions I knew he was incapable of being fair and impartial. Moreover, if it was a court martial it was probably a very serious offense.

I believed Lt Col Martin was not fit to serve on a jury. But I also had proof he was unfit: the audio. I didn’t know anything about the trial. Who was on trial, or for what offenses. For me, it didn’t matter. I felt compelled to act. But even worse, I felt any inaction on my part would make me complicit in the unfair and unjust treatment of whomever was on trial. I believed [based on much of the information provided in this blog] that with Lt Col Martin on the jury the verdict was decided at the outset of the trial [guilty].

I reached out to a friend of mine, MSgt Jason Walker, to get his input. I called him up and explained what Lt Col Martin was doing and how I had information that could remove him from the jury. I asked Jason what I should do in this situation. Without hesitation he responded ‘You know exactly what you should do. Do you really need me to say it?’

No, I guess I didn’t.

If I had proof that Lt Col Martin was biased against the accused, that he punished people that exercised their rights more severely. If I had this evidence and I elected not to disclose it. I would be responsible for whatever fate befell whoever was on trial. I wasn’t willing to have that on my conscience.

The following morning I called the Holloman Area Defense Counsel to speak with the trial counsel for the court martial. I got voicemail instead. So I left a message for them to call me back as soon as possible.

About half an hour later the paralegal called me and asked what I needed.  I told them I had critical information about one of the jurors involved in the current trial.

The paralegal responded ‘You have information about Sergeant Brown?’

I replied ‘I don’t know who is on trial for what, and I don’t want to know. But I think one of the jurors is unfit and I think I can prove it’

The paralegal told me to come to his office and I could speak to the available attorney.

I went to my OIC, Captain Muzyczuk a polish exchange officer and told him an emergency came up and I needed to be gone for around 30 minutes [oh how naive that I thought it would only take 30 minutes]

I arrived moments later and sat down with Captain Rosewood [I'd like to say this fake name was used to protect her identity, but alas I have forgotten her name, sorry!] an ADC attorney at Holloman. First thing I asked ‘Is it true that the Air Force does not have a policy for recording conversations, and the Air Force defers to the local state law for the duty station?’

She responded in the affirmative.

I explained that I had a recording of my commander, Lt Col Martin, stating that he presumed arrested people are guilty; and that Lt Col Martin is currently serving on the jury for the court martial

She was speechless. After gathering her thoughts she asked why I had a recording. I explained about the SrA Perkie incident. She called one of the attorney's at the trial and told them to get a recess, and we were headed down.

Where we were headed was a bit... unfortunate.

Normally legal cases would be tried at the 49th Wing building. However, it was under renovations so all of the wing functions had moved to building 811 over on the 54th Fighter Group side of the base. Meaning the courtroom shared a building with Lt Col Martin's new office.

We arrived and I was greeted by a room full of military attorney's and their accompanied staff, in total about 7 Airmen of varying ranks. The Captain I arrived with explained why I was there and what I had. One of the attorney's asked what was on the recording. I began trying to paraphrase the contents from memory. Before I got more than a few poorly assembled sentences in one of the attorney's asked 'Why don't we just listen to it?' which was met with murmurs and enthusiastic nodding from the others.

They conversed in whispers briefly and asked me to step out for a moment. I stepped into the hallway, and I suddenly felt very exposed. With the trial in recess, members of the jury could be nearby. Ideally I wanted to remain anonymous, so my presence in this area of the building at that time in particular would be very suspicious.

I was called back into the room moments later and one of the attorneys indicated they were all ready to hear the recording. I played the recording for them at maximum volume. They frantically scribbled notes as the audio was played.

When the audio concluded I asked if it was important as I had thought. Everyone agreed the audio was complete and provided a clear picture of Lt Col Martin's ideology on presumption of guilt.

Then they shifted to me. Was I willing to submit the audio? And if so, what were my concerns.

I told them I was willing to submit the audio to the judge. My concerns were a bit more nuanced. I told them I would prefer to remain anonymous, however if my identity must be known in order to submit the audio I would forego anonymity.

But to be honest I knew any protections to my identity would be essentially worthless. I assume you, the reader, has listened to the audio. My voice is the loudest, implying the microphone is closest to me. Moreover, I am one of the only dissenting voices of the assembled leadership. It doesn't take a genius to determine the source of the recording.

I really thought about what would happen once I submitted the audio. I knew I would never lead people in the Air Force again. I would never be in the commander's office discussing future courses of action for personnel. Honestly I grieved. I grieved for the future Airmen I couldn't protect. To fight for. I would never be in that position again. Was it worth the sacrifice? For a stranger on trial I didn't know?

As selfish as it sounds it had very little to do with the trial. It had everything to do with my responsibility to myself, and how I defined my morals and character. If I didn't go forward, I would have to live with the fact I was too much of a coward to stand up for what was right. Of course no one else would know I sacrificed my morals to protect my career, or my happiness. But I would know. So I went forward because the alternative was to redefine myself, and I was unwilling to accept a new definition where I placed my wants ahead of my own integrity.

I also explained that I was facing an imminent MEB [Medical Evaluation Board] and I was worried that my commander would retaliate against me by recommending my discharge from the Air Force just prior to reaching retirement.

The attorneys all agreed that they couldn't promise my anonymity but would do their best. They also said they could include verbiage in my accompanying testimony about my concerns regarding the MEB.

They asked if I still wanted to go forward. I agreed.

So the meeting broke and the attorney's set about doing their attorney things to coordinate submitting the recording. I was asked to stay in the room and wait for them to get me. I was well past the 30 minutes at this point and I provided an update to the Assistant OIC [then] 1st Lt Collier. He was gracious and didn't pry into what was going on, for which I was very grateful.

I waited for what seemed like an eternity. I began pacing the room, wondering what could be taking so long. As I was near the door it opened suddenly surprising me. An older man dressed in a civilian suit began entering the room, with a shorter TSgt in full service dress behind him.

We both apologized simultaneously which made the social exchange even more awkward. He said he thought the conference room was empty, I responded he could have it I was stepping out.

I stepped into the hallway and Captain Rosewood met me and updated me on the trial. The lunch recess had been extended. I needed to provide a written testimony for the judge and then I needed to also provide the recording. They were coordinating everything but it would take time.

I mentioned that the conference room was not available but I didn't like being in the hallway exposed because if Lt Col Martin saw me with the attorney's my already fragile anonymity would crumble. Ironically, just as I made the point, one of the paralegals was moving towards us very quickly with a panicked look on his face.

As he came upon us he said Lt Col Martin was behind him and moving in our direction. We quickly began moving through the halls to put distance between us and Lt Col Martin. However it seemed wherever we went Lt Col Martin was going as well.

We reached the doors that led to the 54th Fighter Group hallway and Captain Rosewood opened the doors and motioned for me to follow. I told her that was where he was probably going and we should go somewhere else.

But there wasn't really anywhere else to go. As we huddled to come up with a plan Lt Col Martin rounded the corner. He saw me immediately, I was maybe 60 yards away, but I'm pretty hard to miss.

I approached him and talked to him about my assignment to Korea. As we walked down the Fighter Group hallway he turned to me and asked if I had ever served on a jury. A bit ironic of a conversation no?

I replied that I hadn't.

He let out a long sigh and said it's very difficult.

He never explained what he meant and I was more interested in excusing myself from the conversation. We went our separate ways and I circled around the building to another entrance.

I met up with Captain Rosewood and we made our way to one of the defense attorney's temporary office. She whipped up a written testimony for me to review and edit. I was told all names would be redacted from the record for my protection. However, I knew after Lt Col Martin saw me that he would immediately know it was me.

In the document was my expressed concerns for reprisal both in my career and specific to the MEB. I signed the document. I then proceeded to Public Affairs to transfer the recording to their custody for the trial.

Once that was completed I went back to the 314th AMU to finish my workday. By this time about 3 hours had passed. I stopped in the leadership office to let them know I was back.

Friday's as a Lead Pro Super are pretty easy. The next week's schedule is already finalized so the focus was on weekend duty drivers. My swing shift Pro Super was a MSgt Hairston who I had only met that week. He had a great mind for aircraft maintenance and production in particular so I was relieved he had already sorted out the weekend duty drivers in my absence.

I wrapped up a few emails and left for the evening. On the way out I saw Lt Col Martin's car driving towards me; he was heading back to his office.

At this time we both drove Camaros; and is typical with some Camaro drivers we wave at each other. Even though I was often at odds with Lt Col Martin whenever I saw him driving around I would give him a wave, which he always returned.

As we approached each other I gave a wave. There wasn't a response.

It was a small gesture but it told me all I needed to know: he knew it was me.

Lt Col Martin had been released from the jury. He was told by the presiding military judge [O-6] to not discuss the trial or his release with anyone, especially other jury members.

Shortly after Lt Col Martin arrived in his office, CMSgt Gleesing stepped into his office.

Chief Gleesing was another jury member but he had also served with Lt Col Martin when he was the 54 MXS commander a few years prior.

It was obvious Lt Col Martin was infuriated. Chief Gleesing asked what had happened, why was he excused from the jury?

By this time Chief Fraley had invited himself to the conversation, circling like a hyena.

Lt Col Martin said he 'was recorded giving administrative action back in November.'

However, Lt Col Martin and Chief Gleesing were given explicit instructions as jury members not to discuss the trial. Moreover, Lt Col Martin was ordered by the judge not to discuss being released from the jury.

By the end of the weekend every senior leader in the 54th Fighter Group knew of the recording, and knew who recorded it.

However, the judge also learned that his jury had been tainted by the conversation between Gleesing and Martin and he wanted answers.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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…

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…