Photo: Travis Support Squadron “Training Session”

Travis FSS

This photo was proudly posted yesterday to the 60th Force Support Squadron Facebook page as part of a portfolio of photos with the cheerful caption “Happy Cinco de Mayo! MPS is out celebrating with a piñata! What’s your plans today?”

And then it wasn’t. After the photo showed up on social media outlets, it was unceremoniously yanked with no rationale provided. This is part of a recent trend of communications being manicured by the Air Force without an accompanying explanation. Personally, I think it’s a good sign. It might mean the service is allowing communications decision-making to be pushed down the chain of command and out to squadrons, which is a step toward the more transparent, candid, useful model of “maximum disclosure with minimum delay” the Air Force owes the public. Sure, it’ll result in a few more misfires, but the tradeoff is worth it, and necessary.

But alas, it’s a baby step, and when no backstory is provided for why a post or article is yanked, we can only speculate. 

See how that works? “No explanation = more speculation.”

I hope the reason this photo was pulled is because it shows a support agency engaging in jackassery during duty hours when there are undoubtedly mission-hacking airmen in need of support. Offices within force support squadrons are notorious for shuttering their offices on Thursdays for “training” … which is all too often a cover term for errands, gym time, and various other activities that while valid, should not be the priority of the office during the duty day.

This drives everyone nuts. Some wing/base commanders have corrected this tendency. Most haven’t. In some cases, they can’t … since by the miracle of joint basing, there is no single commander capable of harmonizing the support and operational functions on a base, and even the chains of command above base level diverge into different headquarters structures. Divided command, the bane of any military organization, is rampant, and it leads to some airmen whacking piñatas all afternoon while others struggle to squeeze in a lunch break.

But I doubt this is the reason the photo was yanked. More likely, the cultural appropriation police complained about the insensitivity of reducing Cinco de Mayo to such a facile and silly affectation. Political correctness is usually the thing standing behind these editorial decisions. Never mind that it’s harmless, inoffensive, and a stupid thing to get miffed about. In a world of reaching for reasons to shame ourselves, this fits right in there.

Alternatively, it could have been taken down because of mean comments. I’ll admit I didn’t have a chance to see many reactions before the photos were removed, so I don’t know if this is true. But I can imagine some of the comments were edgy … and in the hyper-sensitive Camp Cupcake world we currently occupy, edgy comments are swiftly construed as “cyber-bullying.” The first response to such bullying is to self-disempower and climb under a desk somewhere to commence infant sobbing, pausing only to actuate the half-dozen keystrokes required to make the bad people stop.

Whatever the backstory, I was amused by a few of the Facebook remarks I did manage to glimpse. One commenter quipped that those in the photo were probably just practicing for how to get rid of an unwanted guest at a retirement ceremony, a dark reference to the recent debacle involving the videotaped assault of a civilian at Travis by uniformed NCOs … an incident which remains “under investigation.”

Another poster won the internet with this one:

“My unit did something similar, except instead of a piñata we had a jet, and instead of hitting with a stick to make candy fall out, we used wrenches to make all the parts fall out to fix other jets.”

Here’s to hoping those Travis support professionals emerged from their “training session” better trained to support their wrench-turning teammates.

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