CMSAF Cody recently messaged the field that (paraphrasing) the Air Force screwed up in the fielding of its new-fangled NCO education module, failed to imagine the utterly obvious, and would therefore need to dull the fangs of its coercive policies until things could be somewhat de-screwed.
Notably, Cody failed to explicitly take ownership for a program characterized by subpar material, administrative-logistical clownery, and intellectual barrenness in both substance and procedure. Instead, he spent inordinate volumes of time in a subsequent All Call making excuses, tap-dancing, and explaining away both the inadvisability of the ideas underpinning Course 15 and the even more stupefying issues riddling its implementation.
Here’s the full length video of CMSAF’s recent All Call — zip to 2:45 for his “answer” to a question about delaying adverse impacts arising from EPME non-completion:
Most NCOs reacting to this policy change have scowled. They blame Cody for rushing a flawed idea to the field. They blame him for allowing budget pressures to water down NCO education. They blame him for slashing in-residence attendance of something worthwhile instead of killing the manifestly useless Community College of the Air Force degree, or at least modernizing how it is completed and when it is required. Most of all, they resent CMSAF refusing to take accountability for creating a train wreck by coercing already overworked and undermanned NCOs with yet another time-draining, non-negotiable, one-size-fits-none requirement pushing the service’s core workforce onto the career ledge … all the while behaving as though the causes of suicide, mental illness, and disciplinary infractions are irretrievably mysterious.
Cody and the service’s senior leaders are often the creators and fuelers of the problems they’re responsible for solving, and Course 15 is a great lens for catching a glimpse of that reality. It is held to the necks of NCOs like the Sword of Damocles, and they are ordered to learn on pain of career death. It doesn’t take a Mensa membership to see how misguided an idea this is.
But the worst part about something like Course 15 is the way it preys on the “can-do” attitude and team-play orientation of solid airmen. They desperately want to answer when duty calls. Led to do so, many will lean forward until they fall over. And among airmen are those with sufficient faith in their leaders that even in the face of abject stupidity, they will take up fighting wing and protect those same leaders … willfully blinding themselves to brazen malpractice.
While many NCOs were understandably reacting to the latest fiasco by re-labeling Cody “E9AF” … one guy (whose name we have deliberately withheld) took a different approach. Of all those flavors, he chose Blue Kool-Aid.
As you can see, what starts as a “shut up and color” broadside eventually wanders into an ambivalent meditation on the changing nature of the power structure of today’s volunteer Air Force, complete with an unwitting acknowledgement that the leaders he’s apologizing for have only themselves and their predecessors to blame.
Still, this guy seems to wish for a world in which no one mouths off, or at least a world in which mouthing off didn’t work. That world has never existed. What has existed before is a service climate marked by the kind of conflict we’re seeing now in the Air Force. See the Vietnam-era Army for an illuminating prequel illustrating that while history may not repeat itself, it rhymes.
What this poster is also missing is a large part of the story of how we got here. Social media may be fueling the disquiet of the disempowered by helping expose previously obscured BS and by helping channel a previously muffled voice that can’t be ignored without incurring steep institutional costs. But social media isn’t the cause of any new conflict under the sun. It’s just the medium for the playing out of that conflict.
A large part of how we got here is through the very brand of blind followership exhorted by this commenter. He envisions not just an obedient force of airmen, but a spineless, supine, unquestioning one that stands silent in the face of the obviously misguided, unduly punitive, or otherwise counterproductive. He ignores the fundamental duty of any NCO to spot and highlight and challenge anything that he believes in good faith will threaten the mission — no matter where it emanates from.
The brand of obedient conformity encouraged here is probably never appropriate. History — and particularly military history — is littered with stories of failure fueled by overuse of the word “yes.” But if it is ever appropriate, it’s when leaders are peculiarly skilled, conscientious, and capable … such that the policies they enact engender peculiarly high levels of trust and confidence.
We’re not in that world right now, which makes this comment wildly wrong, even if it is also entertaining and a useful learning device.
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