Skip to main content

Smoke doesn't always mean fire Part VII




Spoiler: This won't be the final installment, there will be [at least] a part 8.

This story begins here, it's important to start at the beginning.

When I transferred the recording to the court, I knew I was not only destroying my career but I was also willfully making my remaining 18 months a living hell. It didn't necessarily have to be that way, I just knew the climate in the 54th Fighter Group and I knew what to expect.

Although no one could talk about it with me, everyone knew I had recorded Lt Col Martin. Essentially I was no longer included in important conversations. When I would be asked to go to the squadron to talk about our production planning or vision, Chief Fraley would stipulate that I leave my cell phone at my office. I asked other Lead Pro Supers if they had the same requirement and they said Chief Fraley didn't mention it to them at all.

The new squadron commander Maj Beebe had a standing policy that no cell phones were allowed in his office. At least that was a universal policy, rather than one specifically targeted to me. But the reality was, the fact Chief Fraley had a cell phone policy specific to me gave me evidence that he knew I was the source of the recording and that he was taking targeted action against me. These should be a benefit if I decided to go to the IG.

I didn't bring it up during the article, but when I provided the audio to the Area Defense Counsel [ADC] for the TSgt Brown trial at the end of the day the ADC attorney I initially brought the audio to turned to me and said she would be willing to write a letter on my behalf when there is retaliation.

She sounded so sure of herself; as if retaliation was a foregone conclusion. She didn't say if, she said when. She knew the recording and testimony I provided was classified as a protected communication. And yet, she knew there would be retaliation.

At Holloman the Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] office was the base records manager [sorry the official title escapes me]. Ironically, the same office was responsible for Privacy Act compliance on Holloman AFB as well.

When I requested the court documents in the FOIA request, the request initially went to the Holloman office. Unbeknownst to me, concurrently there was a Privacy Act investigation into the recording of the LOR.

The 54th Fighter Group had initiated a Commander Directed Investigation [CDI] into the Privacy Act violation. The idea was: even though New Mexico was a single party consent state for recording conversations, the content of the conversation I recorded violated the Privacy Act.

As I'm sure you remember from the previous chapter of this story, the Privacy Act protected the recipient of the LOR, SrA Tyler Perkie.

However, my actions saved SrA Tyler Perkie's career. Did he file a complaint against me for the recording? Of course not. If you remember I played for him the recording the very next day to give him an idea of what kind of situation he was in. He thanked me for my help and transparency.

So a Privacy Act complaint was initiated on Tyler's behalf then. Did anyone ask him if he cared? Here's a better question: Did anyone tell him there was a recording of his LOR and it was played in a public setting? Nope.

So we have an investigation being started, without consent or notification of the 'victim' and apparently it wasn't important enough to tell the 'victim' that his privacy had been breached. Gee, reprisal much?

I got wind of this CDI so I began posturing my legal protections. The first thing I did was reach out to the ADC. However, since they were also being investigated they were unable to represent me. Instead I had an ADC attorney from Vandenberg AFB in California.

I sent him all the information and backstory [much of what you've read thus far], and the included audio.

I also reached out to SrA Tyler Perkie and asked for him to write a memorandum releasing all privacy restrictions on his LOR. Tyler of course was happy to help [thanks Tyler!]. I told my attorney about the memorandum and he laughed uncontrollably. He said he had never had such a unique case with such substantial supporting documentation.

All of this legal maneuvering was happening concurrent to my job responsibilities as the Lead Pro Super in the 314th.

From April 22nd [the day the recording had been played in court] to July 2016 Chief Fraley who normally had a penchant for micromanagement seemed to increase his magnification on my production section. I'm sure it's a coincidence this toxic amplification began on the same day Lt Col Martin conspired with SJA, and told his AMXS leadership of my disloyalty.

You see, it was no secret I didn't like working in production. The constant resource restriction and struggle to make the bare minimum happen. The bare minimum that never seemed to be enough at the gauntlet of meetings AMU supervision attends everyday. Because Fraley knew this, he didn't have to exact overt retaliation against me. He just had to turn the screws to me and my unit as a course of his normal shitty, passive aggressive maintenance management. When he turned the screws to me, he also hit me where it mattered. He was trying to tax the workers on the flightline to order to hurt me. He knew that was where my loyalties were; to my people.

Every week he found something he didn't like about my schedule. As I adjusted week over week, he would spend longer to find more inane minutia to complain about. One Wednesday I spent 5 hours poring over the draft schedule; trying to anticipate his complaints. In all I probably reviewed the schedule 8 times. When I was done I believed it was the best it could be. At the end of the day Chief Fraley kicked it back because one day on the checkerboard wasn't properly bolded. That's when I knew it would never be good enough. No matter how hard I tried, he would always either find a reason, or manufacture a reason, to beat me down.

I went to my AMU Chief and told him I needed him to create space with Fraley and AMXS for me to do my job. In hindsight I probably approached him too late, and he was suffering vicariously due to Fraley's disdain for me.

Being a Lead Pro Super is hard enough. However, I was also geographically separated from my family. I was also under an investigation. On top of all that, my AMXS Chief was doing everything he could to make my job as painful as possible. In late July it all came to a head.

I spoke to my AMU Chief and asked him to start working on a replacement. One of the Pro Supers working for me was more than capable to take over. I just need to get him up to speed on a few nuances of the job; but he had an excellent understanding of maintenance management and fleet health strategies.

Unfortunately before I could start the hand off I received a phone call from Chief Fraley on a late Wednesday afternoon [it was coincidentally my birthday, August 3rd].

My fleet had just turned a corner and was on the path to being healthy. Chief Fraley, displeased with my happiness called me up to demand I hold a jet down for frivolous maintenance [RWR, if you know about my RWR plan it was that]. Unfortunately, I can't be specific on the maintenance, you'll just have to take my word it was frivolous [and ridiculously labor intensive]. I knew this was another twist of the knife. He wanted to keep pushing without concern for my guys; and what's worse he was using my position as the vehicle to do it.

I refused.

Chief Fraley stammered and sputtered. I imagined he looked like a tick; only instead of bloated with blood I imagined he was bursting with bile and puss. We argued. He made demands. I rebutted and denied. Really it was a check mate situation. If I caved to his demands, I would be responsible for creating meaningless maintenance for the workers on the line. If I continued denying, he would have the justification he needed to fire me. I told him if he didn't like how I was running my section, take it up with my boss; at which point I hung up on him.

I proceeded to the AMU supervision office cluster and upon entering the OIC/Chief's office I announced I quit. My AMU Chief was surprised and asked what happened. By this time the phone was ringing and I pointed to it and said 'That's why'

I didn't perform another action as the Lead Pro Super. The following week I spun up my replacement and awaited news on what my new job might be. I was trying to slide into a vacancy in the 314th AMU Crew Chief office as a section chief. However I heard I might be moving to support. I was ok with either of those.

A few days later I was notified by Maj Beebe, the new AMXS commander, that I would be taking over as EOR Super from a Tech Sergeant.

I thought it was a joke. I told Maj Beebe I wasn't interested in the position at all. Then he said words I imagine he later regretted: 'I need a strong Master Sergeant down there.'

It would be hard to argue this move to EOR wasn't a form of retaliation. To move from Lead Pro Super to EOR Super wasn't just a step down; it was a graveyard. I was turning over from a Tech Sergeant, and not even a good one at that. I supervised only one person. I had an office that seemed to be about 8x8 feet and often 311th weapons troops would use it as a break room.

I didn't care the position was beneath me per se, it was because I believed this move was a direct result of the recording.

There wasn't an EOR building actually at EOR. My existence was living in a truck, and most times the truck was a bobtail. We had to wait for jets to taxi out from EOR to urinate on the bushes because there were no bathroom facilities and we didn't want to expose ourselves to the aircrew.

Chief Fraley was explicit. He wanted me out every day personally inspecting the aircraft. He believed the personnel rotated every week by the unit were hiding discrepancies to protect their friends. He of course had no basis for this assumption, but when did he ever need evidence to assume someone was a liar?

Two weeks into EOR I was contacted by a Captain that worked at BEAR Base at Holloman. He wanted to interview me for an investigation into a Privacy Act violation. I told him I would need to speak to my attorney first.

My attorney said 'Invoke your right to remain silent. Even though you have the memorandum releasing the privacy rights of the LOR, they don't have anything. Just don't say anything.'

No sweat.

I went to the interview, and the Captain asked me 3 questions: Did SrA Tyler Perkie receive an LOR? Was a recording of that LOR played in court in April? Do I have a copy of that recording in it's entirety, because the 54th Fighter Group only had a redacted copy so they couldn't verify a Privacy Act violation actually happened.

My responses?

Yes.

I wasn't in court on that date, so I couldn't say.

I'm not going to answer that question.

The interview was over in minutes. On the drive back to my unit I called my attorney at Vandenberg and told him what happened. He laughed again. I believe his exact words 'They are on a  fishing expedition. You'll be fine'

I went back to the drudgery that was EOR. I decided to turn my attention into formulating an IG complaint for reprisal. Since my testimony was for a court martial, any reprisal was protected by IG Whistleblower protections.

I believed moving from Lead Pro Super to a TSgt position had a negative impact on my career and the motivation was retaliation. Unfortunately at this time I didn't have the 137 page court documents yet. The FOIA request was still pending.

So I began gathering evidence. I reached out to every active duty F-16 base in the world and figured out how many had Master Sergeants that were tasked with personally inspecting every aircraft during EOR operations.


None of them had a Master Sergeant in that role doing those tasks. Most were an additional duty for the expediters. Between the move to EOR and the Privacy Act investigation I believed I had the proof I needed to initiate an IG complaint, so I headed to Luke to meet with the 56 FW IG.

But that will be a story for next week...

Please join us on Facebook for discussions of the on-going story, comments and news articles.


Comments

  1. Dammit. This is good stuff. Cant wait for next installment. I'm so sick of inner circle bullshit. Inflated and blantantly fabricated eprs and 1206s. Then active measures to eff with peoples lives. They dont realize...the unit will still function if the whole front office dips out. Like I think my entire units morale would take a 20% bump the good way. Less threats of blues and loc lor fir menial bullshit, none of which is backed up in written policy/procedure. But we have to battle the daily barrage of office shot instead of focus on ops, mix,, whatever. CCs have un unbelievable amount of authority, and I have seen little good use of it. You gonna go DoD? Anyhow, thanks for sharing the good fight.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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…