Skip to main content

Smoke doesn't always mean fire Part I

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 of toxic command climates, unsustainable maintenance readiness goals, and the as yet fully realized crisis with suicide in the service.

I had planned on starting a podcast and even went so far as to record the pilot episode. But, me sitting in a room ranting and raving wasn't an organic experience so I scrapped the solo project. I solicited a few of my military friends but none had the bandwidth to collaborate. So, it has since fallen by the wayside.

As time went on, and the longer I went without publishing the more guilt set in. Between my readiness and suicide pieces I felt I was a voice for the field. That I could elevate actual concerns to leadership. I received messages in support. The most gratifying were the messages where leadership teams actually looked at their processes and norms to make sure they weren't replicating toxic behaviors I had written about elsewhere. When I stopped writing I kind of felt the weight of not speaking on behalf of the field.

Now, I worry I am too removed from the field to be able to speak with accuracy. One of the many curses of being on the outside looking in. Next thing you know I'll be wearing ugly blue mesh hats and calling Senior Airmen Buck Sergeants.

So what's next?

Well, I started law school a few weeks ago. If you've read my long, winding, career ending post you probably aren't surprised. So now that I don't have nearly as much time to write I find myself wanting to do it more. Maybe it's because now writing here seems less stressful than before by comparison to my newfound daily stress in law school. I'll try to keep up.

I've been working on a First Sergeant piece for about 6 months. I really need to finish that or abandon it. I'll try and get it done soon.

Oh, one more thing. To all the Russian bots and trolls that visit my page everyday? Fuck you.

Until next time!






Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

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 …

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…