Airmen Confront Authoritarian Dictatorship on Korean Peninsula


Airmen at Osan Air Base are spending their days and nights pushing back against a seemingly unbreakable fascist autocracy. But it’s not the North Korean one pictured above … it’s their own chain of command.

In a February memo issued by a Colonel who purports to be commanding a fighter wing but seems to be running a prison camp, a policy is implemented legitimizing intrusion upon the private time of airmen in their living quarters by something called a “courtesy patrol.” This is an obscenely transparent euphemism for “fun police.”


Sadly, it’s not a surprise this would happen at Osan. It’s a base where self-anointed elites exercise control over the unfortunate masses by spying on them in their living quarters and reviewing the footage not when crimes or disturbances are reported, but proactively … to seek out penny ante infractions which can serve as punitive leverage. None of this has anything to do with fighting and winning against the North Koreans. It’s much simpler than that: an example of what happens when bad leaders are given too much power and too little education on how to wield it responsibly. By this dark magic, people who spend their days defending the basic privacy and property rights of their countrymen are stripped of those rights themselves … because “hurr durr … military.”

Here’s the memo … fairly characterized as part of an unfolding move to control every aspect of the lives of airmen both on and off duty.

[scribd id=311812176 key=key-44NJj9FXCs3yyCnZBOEF mode=scroll]

Notably, the Army already tried something like this and embarrassed itself in the national media as a result while sewing needless dissension in the ranks. For whatever reason, it really pisses people off when they do good work for you and you still insist on bothering them in their off-work time. Leave it to the Air Force to copy the worst ideas, often amplifying them in the process. 

But apart from inherent stupidity of this, you might be asking yourself … where does the manpower to execute it come from? I mean … didn’t the Chief of Staff recently admit there’s a crisis of manpower in the Air Force?

The answer, of course, is mandatory volunteerism. Not only does it create an endless well of manpower to execute the dumbest and most abusive of policies … but under the new evaluation system, it helps careerists differentiate themselves as more deserving of the highest recommendations for advancement. Bear that in mind as you digest this email, … perhaps also asking yourself what sorts of people are likely to self-select for this sort of duty. Spoiler alert: they’re often the types who wouldn’t know an abusive policy or unlawful order if it smacked them on the ass with a rolled up copy of the most recent Social Justice Warrior SAPR newsletter.


—–Original Message—–
From: [Redacted]
Subject: June Team Osan Courtesy Patrol Volunteers
Importance: High


To help combat alcohol related incidents (ARI), Sexual Assaults and over
consumption of alcohol, Team Osan has created a Courtesy Patrol.  Each weekend this patrol goes out with active visible leadership to combat on base shenanigans.  Attached is the SOP and sector routes.

We are looking for one (SNCO/CGO) member per night to volunteer for the June Team Osan Courtesy Patrol.  Below are the date/times available.  If you volunteer — please make sure your leadership is aware.

Any questions please ask.

Date: 4-Jun-16   Time: 2300-0200
Date: 11-Jun-16  Time: 2300-0200
Date: 25-Jun-16  Time: 2300-0200

MSgt [Redacted I. Redactedit], USAF
First Sergeant, [Redacted]

Let’s briefly discuss and repudiate the term “courtesy patrol.” This is the kind of Orwellian trash that immediately exposes an effort as designed to do the opposite of what it purports. The instant you confront intelligent people with a term like this, you lose them. Whatever their visible reaction, it masks an internal facepalm of abject disappointment and disgust … because it can only mean you take them for fools, and no one — aside from an actual fool — appreciates that.

But it’s not just this policy is badly named. It’s an elementally horrible idea. People need downtime away from officials and employers. They need and deserve privacy. They need to be left to their own devices to develop and then deal with their problems, not least of all so they can learn something. And they need to know that no one will remove their right to these things unless and until they individually fail in some way.

Nothing — not even the crime-free, booze-free, profanity-free, non-mustached, crease-sleeved, non-violent, asexual Utopia of rampant bake sale volunteerism envisioned by the Air Force’s bloated cabal of magnifying glass wielding, anthill hovering micromanagers — is worth the trust destroyed through something like this. Nothing short of winning a war can justify it, because nothing short of an eventual lost war will result from it.

What today’s senior Air Force folk don’t understand is that they need the trust of their juniors much more than the other way around. If your people don’t trust you, you can’t lead them, and therefore you’re not a leader. You’re just some schmoe exercising positional authority, and not qualitatively different from a cashier, DMV clerk, carrot gardener, or gas station attendant. It just so happens your positional authority lets you harass people to a greater degree than those others. But that doesn’t mean you should do it. In fact, by doing it, you will alienate the very people you need to actually do your job, since teamwork — yes, teamwork, is required for you to succeed. Even if you can get promoted without it, and might even get promoted quicker by eschewing it.

Today’s Air Force is addicted to this kind of control scheming, even if it inflicts more damage than could ever be justified by the potential good. This addiction is facilitated and fueled by a cultural pathology that has taken root over the last 15 years: taking airmen for granted. Gen. Mark Welsh has made it explicit during his endless string of mandatory hangar calls: if you leave, someone else will step in.  

It takes a special leader to see past the commodity marketing and flesh-peddling of his manpower “experts” and hold in clear view the key truth that even if a down economy allows you to get away with it from an algebraic perspective, the moral injury of treating people like serfs will be toxic and lasting. The damage multiplies exponentially when it stands uncorrected. Welsh, it’s now been clear for some time, is not that special leader. Hopefully his successor will get closer to the mark by at least making an authentic effort to value people for what they mean to the service … rather than treating them like stage props to veil an underlying distrust coupled with a misplaced imperiousness.

What is demonstrable here is an old lesson painfully unlearned (and to a great extent, unobserved) by the Air Force. An excerpt from James Kitfield’s “Prodigal Soldiers” details the reflections of Gen. George Forsythe, who found himself leading an effort to transition the Army to a volunteer force after Vietnam. It was an institution in crisis not so much because of resources or external pressures … but because of its own tendencies:

“Like a number of senior leaders, [Forsythe] had been deeply disturbed by a sense of drift in the Army. [He] saw an undue emphasis on spit-shine image and ‘Mickey Mouse’ rules over true substance, not to mention a general lack trust between senior leadership and the junior officer and enlisted ranks. Nothing bothered him more than the rigid, authoritarian style of command so many officers seemed to favor, erecting a stony formality between themselves and the soldiers they were supposed to lead. By supplying the Army with an unending stream of draftees and requiring little accountability in return, the draft encouraged a system that took the soldier for granted.”

But what we’ve learned in the last four decades is that the problem is arguably made worse in many ways by an all-volunteer system — especially one governed by a self-interested bureaucracy. This is precisely because once people have signed up on their own volition to serve in a volunteer force, commanders feel more free to take an attitude that everyone raised their hands and put themselves in for whatever abuse the system might decide to dole out. Any policy push-back is therefore marginalized as “whining” and everyone is reminded that no one forced them to join or to stay.

Of course, silencing constructive critique is positively toxic for any organization … and with respect to the Air Force, it totally misses the point. America’s sons and daughters who decide to serve in blue are entitled to expect the best possible leadership. Commanders and their minions have a duty to provide it, and by implication a duty to build and reinforce strong, trust-driven, teamwork-driven organizations. These duties supersede command whimsy, ethical weakness, myopia, careerism, bureaucracy, and political image obsession. These factors, or some combination of them, explain the idiocy of intruding on grown men and women during their private time, in their private quarters, and calling it a “courtesy patrol.”

Here’s a bigger issue: as people figure out they’ve been had, the ability to recruit and retain enough of them to win wars gets compromised. 

This is the unfolding reality of the Air Force, and it gestures toward a related pathology. Keeping the system stocked with volunteers creates a need for constant propaganda and misrepresentation about how wonderful things are. This explains why Gen. Welsh went to the Hill earlier this year, with the Air Force in probably the worst shape in its history, and told the Senate that morale was “pretty darn good.” Many insiders tell me he lost much of the force at that moment, to include many of his fellow general officers … who have been privately advising Corporate Headquarters that all is not well.

I’m guessing for those at Osan, morale is anything but pretty darn good. It’s hard to be proud of your unit and inspired by the role you play in the mission when your chain of command is obsessed with monitoring and controlling your private life … and when you’re not even trusted to live privately without supervision. This during the scant few hours you’re not sleeping, preparing for duty, or doing your own job plus the job of the person who should be next to you but was either fired in the last drawdown, deployed on the last AEF on 6-9 days notice, or obliged to miss work for volunteer or educational “opportunities.”

It’s tempting to call for the firing of those responsible for this policy … and indeed they should be fired. That’s how bad this is. But they’re only following the lead of the big boss, who believes privacy is only for the those at the top of the rank structure.

He’s dead wrong and so are those who go along. But as long as everyone continues to put career advancement and official approval above doing the right thing (in other words … self before service), this stuff will continue. It’s dangerous … because it might mean that some day in the future when we need an excellent air force, we won’t have one . The consequences of that will be grave, and won’t be contained within the Air Force itself.

Unspent rounds: creation of an underground party culture, incentivizing of off-base partying, likely reduction in normal (healthy) social activity (and communication), and paternalistic/chauvinistic misapprehension of sexual assault as a youth/dorm/alcohol problem.

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