Coup in Turkey, War in Syria and Iraq, … Cue the VIP Dinner in Qatar

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The most dangerous problem faced by the US military services today isn’t a problem of equipment, money, or manpower … though these are serious issues. More threatening is the loss of combat focus across the board, which reflects a failed leadership class that hasn’t sufficiently guarded the flame of warfighting against the bureaucratic and budgetary pressures of an era of limited war and unlimited partisanship.

In no corner of the military universe is this problem more evident than in the Air Force.

Here’s the latest exhibit. While airmen in Turkey hunker down without electricity and endure an unfolding coup attempt and their brothers and sisters in arms transit the dangerous airspace over Syria and Iraq to contend with Islamic State, the service’s Middle East headquarters is focusing on how best to pamper generals flocking to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar for a world class exercise in pissing away taxpayer dollars.

I’ve attended these conferences. Their value is minimal, and they typically accomplish nothing that couldn’t be done from standoff. But even if that were not the case, any registrable value is easily offset by the cost in manpower and materiel required to receiver and entertain a veritable legion of flag officers, hat carriers, and horse holders … each coterie arriving in a publicly owned executive jet or disembarking from a military aircraft with a real mission that was bureaucratically hijacked to ferry them to the festivities.

Among the largest and most injurious of the expenses associated with these boondoggles is the serial burglarizing of the considerable manpower required to wait on this army of perfumed princes hand and foot, as though each was regent of his or her private nation and sufficiently beset with royal gout to be unable to transit to a buffet table or beverage cart unassisted.

They show up to a base where airmen work hard, live miserably over and over again, and get home to their families days or weeks late because of the allegedly untenable expense of getting them home on time, which really amounts to pennies on the VIP dollar. They then park their lazy asses in swivel chairs, start yammering at one another about things far less important than they’re made out to be, and commence ringing tiny service bells ultimately answered not by servants or waitstaff … but by educated, technical professionals being pigeonholed into running an ad hoc quasi-luxury restaurant. All so the generals can live out their personal fantasies of being too important to look after themselves. How they can be so busy and yet run their organizations so badly is one of the great mysteries of our time.

Of course, we don’t just leave this all to chance. Because how could we live with ourselves if they were actually forced to lift a finger? To avoid such a catastrophe, we stand up entire protocol staffs at “deployed” bases … which soak up masses of involuntarily deployed NCOs and officers who do nothing for an entire year but orchestrate the operation of these recurring professional catteries. All without any assigned resources. They beg, borrow, and eventually get their bosses to steal manpower.

The email excerpted below provides an example.

Subject: Volunteer Opportunity with CENTCOM Conference


Looking for your assistance to pass along the following message for a volunteer opportunity with CENTCOM Protocol / DV Catering. CENTCOM is hosting their annual CCs Conference 5-7 Aug and are looking for volunteers to assist DV Catering with their set-up, serving and tear down [sic] of meals during the conference.

Training will be conducted between 1-5 Aug with execution of the event on 6-7 Aug. Shifts will vary in length. Members will be expected to have their own transportation to and from the CENTCOM building on the BPC side (near the Kasbah/Gym). If you have anyone that is interested, please have them contact TSgt Xxxxx and/or Capt Xxxxx. 

Thank you for your help in spreading the word.

Capt, USAF AFCENT Chief of Protocol
Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar
DSN: 318-436-4010
VoSIP: 308-436-0030
Cell: +974 3089-2834

Everyone says we’re broke, but we’re still behaving like money is no object.

Everyone says we’re undermanned, but we’re still chewing through manpower as if it’s unlimited, and as if no part of the mission will go wanting as a result.

Air Force Generals say they love airmen. That they’d die for them. But they continue to see everyone below the rank of O-6 as the hired help. So much so that they don’t mind seeing them deployed forward at great family hardship … just so they can do jobs so obviously inconsequential that they can be spared for one wasteful shenanigan after another.

I have a better idea. How about if the flag officers serve their own goddamn dinner. Better yet, how about if they invite a couple hundred junior enlisted and officer servicemembers to a nice dinner and wait on them hand and foot. Not as a publicity stunt, but out of genuine recognition of who makes the mission happen … and who is actually the hired help.

Or better still, how about if everyone just focuses on getting the job done, and defining that job around the mission rather than self-importance.

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