“I Made MSgt. at 12, and I’m retiring a MSgt.”


The screed below was posted in the Air Force subreddit under the handle “PissedOffSNCO.” I’m sharing it because I think it captures with a particular clarity and crispness the increasingly predominating attitude of the Air Force’s NCO corps. The cultural shift they’ve been expected to not only endure but implement on the front lines of the service over the last dozen years has been so radical that it’s left many feeling they can no longer stay in step.

Read for yourself:

I’m not going to sugar coat it. Things have been rough for all of us. I am in a maintenance career field and I wanted to give all of you some advice and ask for your help.

I personally believe that all the actions by big blue lately (past 8 years or so) are not by accident. I feel they are pushing out the older folks and trying to get younger, more “blue” folks to replace them. Unfortunately, I don’t think the next CSAF will change things. Not because he/she doesn’t want to, but because they need to keep this up for a few more years until they get the Air Force where they envision it.

My advice is don’t play the game if you don’t want to play the game. Take care of each other and look out for your people. The ones that want to be promoted will stick out like a sore thumb and won’t ever get the respect we used to give chiefs of old. Stick together and use your hatred of the new EPR system, PME, and manning issues to re-forge that bond with your peers you have lost over the years.

For fellow SNCOs: trust no one. Your peers don’t truly care about you any more. They will throw you under an entire fleet of busses to ensure they get ahead. Take care of your NCOs and Airmen. Don’t let them become heartless stripe chasers.

The help I am asking for: Please don’t allow the future of the Air Force to become what they are trying to make it. Don’t be afraid to rage against the machine. Do what is right and protect your people.

To young officers: Enlisted don’t look up to you like they used to. Start respecting your NCOs and learn from the experienced ones. This is the military, not a corporation. Please don’t allow these changes. Take care of your people.

To older officers and enlisted that have bought into the new Air Force:

Shame on you. Think back to why you joined the Air Force. Make your 2nd lieutenant or Airman version of yourself appear in front of you. Look them in the eyes and apologize. Now let them beat the fucking shit out of you for becoming a spineless ass kisser.

If you disagree, you truly are going to get people killed in one way, shape or form.

Why I am retiring as a MSgt: Because taking care of my people is more important and far easier to do at this level. I do not care about the money or the heartache it will take to retire as a Chief.

There’s a lot of insight here.

Note how the author looks upon the service’s current leaders and their policies with disdain and pessimism. Note how the author feels betrayed by wholesale changes in attitudes and priorities that have left him feeling isolated and unwelcome on his own team. Note his resentment toward those who have warped and mangled the entire value proposition … too clueless to understand the long-term impacts of their actions and too spineless to curb nonsense even when it becomes clearly destructive to everyone’s shared interests.

This is how our SNCOs feel right now. Their seething discontent at the direction of the service is bubbling out everywhere … yet somehow remained unnoticed by an absentee CMSAF who launched a raft of radical policies, chased them with some nifty propaganda, and then posted himself behind a barricade leaving everyone in the field to deal with the flail.

The same thing is happening on the officer side of the house. People are turning down what were once cherished opportunities, or making career moves that prevent them from ever being considered. Ambition has given way to widespread ambivalence, which is now descending into apathy.

The reason is because ambition without a basis in cherished principles is nothing more than naked pragmatism, and morally solid people don’t find that inspiring or motivating. It offends the value system they’ve internalized, most of all when it asks them to trade loyalty to those values for another rung on the ladder of importance.

If there is one lesson extractable from this lamentation more crucial for service leaders to notice than any other, it’s that when you turn career progression into a game, your best people will choose to simply not play. This is why principles should always be a part of the service’s core culture … rather than being forced to compete with it.

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