Academy Microaggression Debacle Illustrates Air Force’s Poor Leadership

Hat tip to Steven Mayne, whose facebook page continues to unearth fascinating examples of the best and worst from within the US Air Force. Recently, he’s shared with us an example from the Academy that crystallizes the shite quality of InChargeShip we’ve come accept from the service’s senior NCOs.

This particular fiasco started with … you guessed it … a mass email. Before we show the images of this monument to managerial futility, let’s pause for a brief moment and recount all of the great victories achieved by sending mass emails comprised of preachy, condescending language rendered from an out-of-touch cubicle monkey who has zero relationship with 99.69% of the audience.

[nanosecond pause].

Ok, that didn’t take long.

Kids, here’s a tip: don’t attempt to enforce standards in a military organization using impersonal emails. First of all, you piss off everyone who is upholding the standard, as they realize you haven’t even bothered to notice. Second, you don’t give anyone a chance to challenge you or provide valid responses, which is core to getting people to accept your message. Third, you portray yourself as lazy. Finally, anyone who doesn’t know you will struggle to read your tone, and will extract mistaken inferences from your words. Take it from someone who has stepped in this particular pile … tone gets lost in an email, and you will alienate people rather than bring them onside.

Ok, back to case at hand. It seems this particular SNCO, a First Sergeant, was concerned enough about personal hair grooming standards in the cadet wing that he felt moved to address it. Electronically.

So he sent the following message to everyone and their dog. Hard to imagine how anything could have gone wrong.

Now, before we get to the “substance” of this message, let’s just take a bit more time recounting the abhorrent shittyness of the chosen approach, which reflects a knowledge of how to influence people roughly equivalent to the square root of jack all.

Reminding cadets they’re in the military. What a jackass.
Using the phrase “blatant and intentional.” Jackass.
Insisting that people shave their necks between haircuts so they will measure up to this guy’s personal standard. Massive, braying jackass.

But ultimately, it’s the content of the last paragraph that got this goose into the oven. MSgt. Parish decides to color his commentary with three specific references to ghetto culture, which makes his message not just misguided, but racially inflammatory. He singles out one particular group of people who he feels don’t measure up to his personal appearance standards … rather than keeping his critiques broad enough to be universally applicable. This is the textbook definition of discrimination. Luckily, he closes his email with an appeal for charitable donations, so that solves everything.

This jackass should have been fired before sundown and his professional carcass dragged through the figurative USAF streets as a signal to like-minded jackasses. Not only because he’s evidently a barely-closeted racist, but because he’s uncloseted as a shitty leader and has no business being a First Sergeant of anything.

But the reason he wasn’t fired is because this is exactly what the USAF has trained him to do. Sit in your recently redecorated office far removed from anything remotely resembling hard work, stroke your beloved stripes, and occasionally fire off a harshly-worded missive falsely but successfully justifying your paycheck. Parish is doing just what his bosses want. Which is why he was given merely a slap on the wrist for the sin of injecting cynical toxicity into the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s officers.

Here’s the response from USAFA leadership.

This compounds the problem by adding more pisspoor leadership to the situation.

First of all, what in God’s holy name is a “Vice Commandant of Cadets for Culture and Climate” and why are we paying for it? This sounds like a title lifted straight out of the Third Reich, and it proves the point that if you need a senior office focusing on culture, your culture is already too far gone for it to help.

Second, what the hell is the point of dragging the social justice lexicon into this? “Microaggression” is a bullshit term concocted by the politically correct to demonize people who hurt the feelings of others inexplicitly rather than openly calling them names. Why not just call this guy a racist, which he clearly is, and then act accordingly?

Oh, I know. Because third, this email is a huge cop-out. Rather than hold a leader accountable for his actions by identifying those actions and their significance clearly, easier to minimize, elide, and ultimately do nothing of substance.

Apologies are nice. Actions are better. It was not long ago Jay Silveria said anyone who didn’t share his perspective of tolerance and equality should leave USAFA. And yet, here we have an example of an intolerant person, and he’s being mildly castigated for errant microaggressions. Shame, shame.

The conclusion we can draw from the sordid mess is that the Air Force, despite a decent PR effort to the contrary now and then, is no closer to solving its leadership deficit than it is meaningfully addressing its pilot shortage. Both are debilitating to national defense, but if you’re waiting for Congress to do anything about it, you may as well start learning Russian now.

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