There was a time in the Air Force when commanders understood a timeless principle that has since been forcefully rejected: in order to raise an effective fighting force, you have to tolerate a bit of non-linear human behavior. War is about limit-pushing, and woe betide a military comprised solely of smartly saluting yes men.
In today’s clinically sanitized Air Force, carefully crafted by risk-averse, star-wearing careerists in their lurch to appease avowed Nanny Staters over the past several years, non-conformity is a cardinal sin. Better to lose a battle, piss away millions in taxypayer funds, or abuse command authority than tolerate a politically incorrect sense of humor.
Case in point: recent low-grade chicanery at Kadena Air Base which seems to have unnerved the local fascists. Apparently, someone decided to have a little fun with the board displaying official photos of the chain of command. The hilarious result was sent to the Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page, which posted the following:
The photo is a bit blurry, but you can make out lampoon shots of Trump flipping off a crowd, Pence giving a cheesy, Doc Foglesong-esque double thumbs-up, and a rendition of Saint Mattis, the Patron Saint of Chaos. The offending miscreant reportedly left the official photos unharmed, stowing them nearby where they could be easily put back into place.
This sort of good-for-a-chuckle-now-fix-it stuff has been going on ever since chains of command have existed. They’re not a reflection of indiscipline. They’re a light-hearted exercise of free will. This isn’t a rebellion … it’s a joke. Oh, and it’s funny as hell too.
But that’s not how it was taken by local InChargeShip. The flash-to-bang between appearance of the pic on social media and construction of the gallows was measured in minutes rather than hours. Before long, the page was receiving multiple pleas for the photo to be taken down. The content of those messages reflects a rapidly-executed witch hunt with less regard for actual culpability than for getting someone’s head on a pike as soon as possible.
Here we have a claim from someone that despite no involvement with sending the photo to a social media outlet, the target has been put on his back. He finds himself begging for the photo to be taken down despite this lack of involvement. He’s become a censor. Part of the problem. He feels terrible even though he’s done nothing wrong. The chain of command has turned him into an agent on their behalf by wielding nothing more than a false accusation.
Here we have one of the fascists working to elicit information from the site operator so the witch hunt can advance toward its objective. How do we know he’s a fascist? Well (assuming he is being sincere), he admits he knows an innocent person is on the chopping block, but makes it clear he’s going right along with the plan to punish the wrong person unless he can give “supervision” a better answer. His message doesn’t say “unless you give me the identity of the sender, I will have to commit career suicide tomorrow to do the right thing and protect an innocent airman.”
It’s easy to get caught up in this two-bit palace intrigue and lose sight of the more important truth looming over the situation: a chain of command is threatening loss of career and pulled stripes over minor shenanigans and their appearance on social media. This is the actual clownery that ought to be punished.
On behalf of the taxpayer, please knock it off. We’re not paying you to conduct investigations into whether a servant in the mess hall helped himself to extra strawberries, which would be more serious misconduct than this. Just put the goddamn photos back on the wall, send out an email to the squadron directing that it not happen again, and get back to work. If you are indeed “leaders” then you don’t have time for stuff like this, and Saint Mattis would agree.
The Air Force has permitted to entrench a culture too intolerant of people being people. Americans being Americans. Time and energy cannot be wasted on trying in vain to beat the fun out of people. With deficient manpower and excess mission load, leaders need to focus their efforts on what matters.
This kind of garbage does not. And if you think anyone at the top of the chain will notice or care, you’re sorely mistaken.
Even if it did matter or anyone would notice, that would be no excuse for pursuing and punishing the wrong person. If that happens in this case, you can bet the social media activity resulting from it will make this look like child’s play. Which it is.