Warning: this story contains an explicit image that some may find offensive.
Welcome to another day in Camp Cupcake.
Whenever you believe you’ve glimpsed the worst possible example of the infantilization of adult military volunteer servicemembers, there will always be another, more horrifying spectacle to behold.
The photo below, according to the multiple sources who provided it, chronicles a group of airmen attending mandatory classes at a First Term Airman Center (FTAC). For the happily uninitiated, FTAC is a pillar of the Air Force’s nascent program to reduce airmen to sniveling, Dorito-munching tweenagers incapable of independent judgment … and therefore reliant on helicopter parents masquerading as leaders … as they themselves quote mindlessly and incessantly from libraries of rules invented to remove independent thought (and with it, common sense) from the Air Force experience.
FTAC is designed to help brand new airmen arriving at their first duty stations acclimate to daily service life. In basic and technical training, they’ve theoretically learned the framework of values, principles, and technical skills they need to succeed. FTAC is (or was, when it began several years) the “bridge” course that helps them understand how what they’ve learned applies in an operational environment.
What is has devolved into, despite (or perhaps because of) noble intentions … is perfectly captured below.
The photo, which has also been featured on a Facebook page called “Security Forces Confessions,” raises a host of questions.
Were these airmen given the opportunity to skip the class? Did anyone bother asking them if they already knew how to use condoms?
Were they forced to handle phalluses in front of one another? Did anyone find the activity embarrassing, demeaning, or offensive? Did the course instructors or the commander who authorized this bother to ask the class whether anyone would find it offensive beforehand?
A nice litmus test: if these airmen had conducted their own ad hoc course using the same materials and “equipment” in the squadron — or even privately in their dorm rooms — would they have been safe from disciplinary action? Is the use of sex toys in a professional workplace basically permitted now in the Air Force? Does it matter which part of the anatomy is represented?
Who paid for the fake penises and condoms? At what cost? With whose authorization? Did anyone run a basic cost-benefit analysis to determine the expenditure was responsible.
Where did this idea come from? Do we really believe American adults need this instruction? If so, on the basis of what data?
For you rulebook quoters who may be tempted to apologize for this mess: what Air Force Instruction covers the purchase of fake penises and their use?
Most importantly, what valid military purpose is served by this activity? What valid military necessity made the orders to conduct and receive it lawful? Had someone refused the order to participate, would they have been safe from disciplinary action?
Honestly … if this can be construed as a valid military activity, nothing is invalid. It’s exactly this kind of nonsense that opens the door to unlimited wasteful expenditures, which leaves the service trying to explain in vain how it is that $167B per year somehow doesn’t stretch far enough despite its historically small size and comparatively modest level of direct combat involvement.
More damningly, stuff like this gnaws at the soul of a once great military institution. This is just childish and embarrassing. These are adults. Most of them know how to use a condom. For those who don’t, the appropriate agency on base should offer and advertise help. A mandatory class not appropriate. As a service, we have no right to this level of involvement in the most private activities of our people.
A course whose goal it is to acclimate airmen to the life in the operational force is about as wrong a venue as is imaginable. In the limited time we have to influence these people before they start producing on behalf of a real-world mission, we’re wasting time and energy (ours and theirs) on something they should have learned (and probably did learn) in 8th grade Health class. If they didn’t, it’s not our place to teach it … and certainly not our place to force it upon them.
Think of the message this sends. Instead of “welcome to the fleet, where we devote ourselves to making enemies suffer” … we’re saying “welcome to Camp Cupcake, where our main focus is your private sexual conduct … and just to be clear, we think you are idiots.”
The implication for airmen is that the service they just signed up for doesn’t even trust them to get the basics right in their private lives … and therefore certainly doesn’t believe they can properly conduct themselves around jet aircraft or nuclear missiles with anything more than a color-by-number leash length.
Given that trust is a two-way street, is it any wonder airmen don’t trust their leaders these days?
For someone in Congress, this is an easy oversight win. We’re clearly wasting taxpayer funds on something without a military purpose. This ought to be ceased outright without delay … and how it became a thing in the first place should be investigated and dealt with appropriately. This is a gleaming iceberg in an ocean of bad ideas.
Of course, it’s also hilarious. We’re now in an Air Force where you can be reprimanded for texting Miley Cyrus lyrics to your friends … an Air Force where failing to report a rumor about a relationship can get you blacklisted, even if the rumor was false. But in that same Air Force, you can get paid a day’s wage for playing with penises.
In fact, it’s your duty.