As the Air Force’s $10M/year show troupe “Tops in Blue” emerges from a busy Independence Day touring schedule that included soothing perhaps dozens of troops in morale-starved Colorado Springs and belting out Lee Greenwood standards in Wyoming, reports from group insiders indicate that Mr. Edward Jones, the choir’s long-time Performance Director, has resigned.
Jones’ name surfaced several times in recent months as prior touring members spoke with Air Force Times, JQP, and other outlets about a troubling unit climate characterized by sexual harassment, degrading treatment of candidates and members, and overall toxicity. Prior members have privately alleged that Jones, along with the program’s permanent supervisor Tom Edwards, cultivated a hostile work environment.
Whether his reported resignation is related to these eyebrow-raising accounts or the multiple Inspector General complaints filed by participants in recent years is unknown at this point. Several Freedom of Information Act requests are pending.
Neither Tops in Blue nor the Air Force have issued a statement concerning Jones’s reported decision to leave the team. Without more information, it’s difficult to judge whether his stepping down is a response to the pressure put on Tops in Blue in recent times. That pressure has grown more intense with increasing instances of prior members denouncing the team and a Facebook community committed to its demise gaining new traction.
One thing not in doubt is that airmen overwhelmingly want Tops in Blue shut down. They see little value in the group’s performances and accordingly no justification for the direct and indirect expense required to keep it operating. Many if not most see it as a clear waste of funds. At a time of excruciating manpower and money shortages, the tour has pulled three dozen airmen off the line for a year of globetrotting to play unrequested show tunes at steep taxpayer expense. An upcoming pacific tour with stops in Japan, Korea, and Guam will cost taxpayers an estimated $800,000 in transportation costs alone.
What does the Jones resignation signal concerning the future of Tops in Blue? It’s anyone’s guess, and don’t expect the Air Force to whistle a telling tune anytime soon. But the trouble brewing beneath the gleeful surface of the militant singing cult does seem to be reaching a boiling point. Perhaps the searing heat of common sense is finally having an impact.