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Chief Wright Blog

Chief Wright
Chief Wright

 

During the reign of E-9 Cody I began compiling a list of things that the Air Force needed to fix. To be fair, none of the items were original with me, they were either things I had observed or that I had heard numerous other people griping about. But honestly I never sent it to Cody because I knew it was a complete waste of time. He and the other two of The Three Amigos (James, Welsh, and Cody) had proven themselves to just be more inbred bureaucratic spawn of the unholy union of the Government and the DoD.

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But along came Chief Wright like a beam descending from heaven during an eternal era of hellish darkness. Ok, that’s a little overboard but it’s great fun to write, and if you were in during that administration the times were very gloomy. Well except for the Nonners because all of them got selfies with Cody in his fashionable turtleneck t-shirt. In any case Wright jumped out of the gate running and he had only been in office a few weeks when I sent him the list. Now I don’t believe for a second that there weren’t other Chiefs telling him about the problems, but if I was the only one then I weep for our Air Force. In any case, here’s what I sent to his e-mail:

  1. We have to focus on the mission and get rid of, or minimize, anything that’s background static. Most everyone I know joined the military to be in the military and do military things. Things like protect our country and protect others from evil men, not sit in endless classes on administrative and social subjects. SAPR, Human Trafficking, Lautenberg, Bystander, Suicide Awareness etc. should all have a short initial class and then refresher via CBT, but only if there are changes. I got the info the first time and I’m pretty sure I can make the case that repeating the info ad-nauseum hasn’t stopped someone who wants to do it. And allow me the ability to challenge any CBT – if I can show that I know the info then that was the goal anyway – right?
  2. Mandatory fun will not fix morale. Fix the root problem which is people not being able to do the job they signed up for, unethical leaders, nepotism, an unfair and laborious promotion system, personnel shortages, required volunteerism, and leaders who focus on non-warfighting programs and policies. Truthfully speaking, a bouncy house just makes us look bad to the other branches and brings down our morale even further.
  3. We seem to rely too heavily on PME and Leadership schools to teach leadership. I thought that was my job. Then again, leadership is not standing outside the BX gigging people for uniform violations. But we also see those “leaders” as being the ones who get promoted and that’s the sort of thing that destroys morale. Personally I think that anyone who has time to camp out in front of the BX doing that sort of thing doesn’t have enough to do in their regular job.
  4. There are too many regulations and do you know why? Well one is because that’s all some people can do to justify their existence. Others are because one idiot did something wrong and rather than have a wall to wall counseling session they just write a new instruction. And why? It’s because they live in fear of someone above them asking why it happened and what they are doing to stop it. A wall to wall session is not an acceptable answer whereas writing a new instruction is.
  5. ABU’s are hugely unpopular. They took away esprit-des-corps by removing command, unit and squadron patches and unit ball caps. And for maintainers they are not a functional utility uniform. Our best and most flexible utility uniform was the OD Green fatigues which gave lots of flexibility in all weather conditions. Give everyone OCP’s, patches, squadron ball caps for home station, and encourage nose art for aircraft.
  6. Let people blow off a little steam now and then. But it doesn’t happen because leadership is deathly afraid of how it will look to outsiders and up the chain of command. The tattoo and aircraft nose art policies are examples of that. The base street Christmas card decoration contest at SJ was another.
  7. The PT program is way too high up the list of priorities and needs to be moved back down where it belongs. Morale is degraded when more focus is placed on PT than in actual warfighting job skills and performance. When was the last time that you got additional training in your actual AFSC? And when was the last time you heard someone talking about PT? Exactly! Along with that, most people dislike the PT gear. Lots of people burn theirs when they get out. Go back to personal choice in PT gear and there will be an immediate boost in morale.
  8. Get rid of all the bands and show choirs, and just keep one musical group. If we don’t have money for parts and are short people, what in the world are we doing funding those sorts of things? Sorry, but those bands/groups really don’t improve morale. Also – giving TSgt to those folks straight out of Basic is demoralizing to the rest of the force. It cheapens their stripes and is an insult to the blood, sweat and tears that they put in to get their rank. At the very least create some sort of specialized rank for musicians.
  9. Leadership should always look out for and stand up for their people, and that means at the highest levels. That hasn’t been the case in recent years. I don’t trust anyone who agrees with everything I say and I am very wary of promoting them.
  10. Promote based on AFSC skills and not volunteerism or how “professional” they look or act.
  11. Only essential people on deployments and trips. Nobody allowed that’s just trying to get a bullet statement on an EPR. If you want to be in the thick of it, don’t sign up for an AFSC that doesn’t have a real downrange tasking.
  12. The incessant surveys need to stop. Most people don’t trust them and either will not do them or will answer dishonestly. If leaders put full faith in the surveys then they are just fooling themselves. The last election should teach us some valuable lessons about surveys (i.e. polls). And just because someone visits a base or shop and they say things are great doesn’t mean it’s so. Do Generals and Chiefs really think A1C Jones is going to tell them that things are bad? My philosophy is that the junior NCO’s should be passing up the line that things are messed up. But they don’t because that’s not the party line and it will end their career so only good and happy news flows up. The King has no clothes.
  13. People don’t trust many of their leaders. And why is that? It’s because they see them looking out for themselves and their own careers. Subordinates know that they will be thrown under the bus for a superior to make the next rank. How often do they see an officer who does something really bad and they just get reassigned where a junior enlisted person doing the same thing gets prison time?
  14. If you don’t see people joking around and pulling pranks then you have a morale problem. And most of the stuff people do isn’t hazing. But again, leadership is worried about how it looks or getting a call from some upset mother or Congressman so the safe thing to do is suppress it.
  15. We need to stop it with all the knee-jerk reactions and in one-off situations we need to deal with the person and move on. Most things aren’t as big an issue as they are made out to be, but too many leaders are worried about how it will make them look.
  16. Our focus needs to be on warfighting skills and capabilities. Any other focus is a detriment to that and ultimately makes us less capable of accomplishing the mission.
  17. Awards packages. You get in trouble for not writing enough awards and if there aren’t any deserving then it’s your fault that they are not being mentored to excel. So fake packages get made and everyone around (including the recipient) knows it’s all fake or overinflated. Have you ever seen the ribbon racks for the guys who fought in WW II? Yeah – one or two rows. Give awards when they are truly deserved and they will mean something. Keep giving them out to everyone and they become an insult.
  18. ORI’s and ORE’s. Everyone knows that’s not how we fight a war. Train like you fight. And to add to that, how many different kinds of inspections and evaluations are we subjected to? It’s almost a continuous stream now.
  19. We don’t need people spending their time in the hassle of DTS and other support programs. Bring the manning back up in support sections and let people focus on their AFSC’s.
  20. There are too many Chiefs and too many officers and the few Indians are overworked. If we need that many people to attend all the meetings and get all the paperwork done then we need to get rid of the meetings and whittle down the paperwork. And I’m not a Chief-hater but we’ve created too many. The 9G’s (I’m one) and Command Chiefs should really go away because truthfully their jobs are redundant. When you look at 36-2618 there is just so much copy and paste and when everyone is responsible for something, then nobody is responsible. Yes I’m oversimplifying but the Chief and Officer ranks have exploded and the pyramid is starting to look like a rectangle.
  21. Commanders Calls. People shouldn’t have them just to prove they are in charge. If it can go in an e-mail then do that and don’t repeat it at CC. And anyone who says, “Just to piggyback on what the _____ just said” gets kicked out of the AF. Lol! It’s also detrimental to morale to make folks on leave or off shift to come in for CC. Leave it up to their supervisors to pass on any critical info.
  22. Briefings are never brief. If slides have full sentences or more than 4 bullet points they aren’t briefings. And if everyone already saw the same info in their e-mail then why the world is it being talked about again? It wastes time and is insulting.
  23. Social Media is here to stay and trying to strictly control it is a lost cause. If we pay attention to it we can get a much better feel about our people and their state of morale. I would strongly suggest a rewrite of AFI 1-1 2.15.3 and 2.15.4 because they come across as telling people they had better only say good things and never express a negative opinion.
  24. Contrary to popular opinion, morale shirts do not fix poor morale and in fact many vets find them offensive. Dump them.
  25. Back in the day, at the end of a hard shift, the flight chief would hand out a cold beer or Coke at shift change, and you could have a beer at lunch. That’s not promoting alcoholism. One beer doesn’t make you drunk and we deal with people who have problems as they come up.
  26. We need to quit safety-ing people to the point that they are crippled. This is a dangerous business and we can’t live in fear of Airman Smithy cutting his finger. We are making people soft. Will we be covering them in bubble-wrap next? The permanent wear of reflective belts, (day and night), and even sometimes in the AOR, is an example of that.
  27. We got an Airman’s Creed because people felt insecure that the Army had one and we didn’t. We didn’t need one because we knew who we were and what we did. We stay in hotels or air conditioned tents (usually) and use our brains to fix aircraft that go blow bad guys to red mist. The Creed is just an outgrowth of a corporate mission statement, which many feel the AF has become. My oh my, how aimless and ineffective the pre-creed AF was. Throw in little brown books, little blue books, Airman’s manuals, white papers, and we are ready to fight.
  28. Exactly what is the optimum number of meetings and briefings we have to sit in before we are capable of fighting a war?
  29. If a SrA gets jail time for an offense, a General should get the same jail time for the same offense. And moving an officer to a different base is not punishment and everyone knows it.
  30. People have to spend too much time writing EPR’s to make sure that they won’t get kicked back by AFPC. In fact, they spend more time trying to get the EPR right than they do in actually talking to the subordinate. That’s backwards. And when we need teams running around teaching folks how to write acceptable bullet points – well that’s a problem isn’t it? I surveyed my fellow ANG 9G’s and the overwhelming response is that the AF EPR system does not work for us and removes even more time from a Drill weekend. When websites and special training classes spring up to help you write EPR bullets that won’t get kicked back – we that’s indicative of a problem isn’t it?
  31. CCAF should not be mandatory for promotion for people who hold higher degrees. Nor should it carry more weight than a higher degree, in any situation.
  32. People resent paying landing fees to attend mandatory events, especially their own promotions. SNCO’s should chip in to buy a big group cake for all the promotees or go old school and tack on the stripes, give out the certificates, clap and get back to work.
  33. Volunteer stuff should be removed from the promotion process. The volunteer work I do should be what I want to do from my heart and for my own self-worth and when I feel like doing it. The AF has adulterated it in many cases as a way for leaders to highlight themselves by showing how much their people are doing in the community. We protect them from the bad guys and maybe we need to get back to that main message.
  34. Bring back Warrant Officers and allow people to stay in their specialty as a technical person if they don’t want to move into management. Not everyone needs to be a leader and we lose lots of great technical people because we force everyone into management.

 

Chief Wright

So that’s it. Some of it has happened but I guess most has not. I’d suggest you add or subtract to the list as you see fit and then share it. Is Chief Bass interested? She says she is but as we all know, actions speak louder than words. And for most of us who have spent more than a few years in the Air Force know that there are lots of words and not many actions.

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