"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Latest IG Complaint Fail, Retaliation, and my Predictions

As readers of earlier posts will know, I’m in the middle of long battle with the Air Force. As I’ve mentioned before, I filed an Inspector General (IG) complaint claiming retaliation for the academic freedom violation I experienced in ACSC. My claim was that the LOR/UIF given me was produced in retaliation for academically protected comments and for previously engaging the IG process, both in the same command. Well, I just got a response from the IG. The IG letter, also from that command, stated, "Based on a thorough, impartial analysis of the evidence, I found that the responsible management officials had a sound basis for taking the actions against you, as outlined in their written documentation to you." The IG goes on to claim the actions taken against me were "reasonable." In other words, there is nothing unsound or unreasonable with ruining an officer's career by 1) relying on a police report associated with a later dismissed charge of failing to use a blinker during a lane change and 2) citing a memo created in-house that alleges an officer lied despite audio proof to the contrary.

I submitted the complaint to the SAF/IG and specifically requested they investigate and not kick it down to the command in question (since it was that command that I was saying retaliated against me). They kicked it down anyway. The IG above who spoke of being "impartial" works for that command. At any rate, I did my due diligence and attempted to use established processes to fix the problem in house. As usual, those processes didn't work. In this post I lay the facts before you and quote the charges...



Of course my earlier involvement with the IG had prepared me for this response. A couple of years ago I filed an IG complaint (the first of two in my fourteen years) against my chain of command (including two flag officers) for not providing duty time for PT in accordance with AFI 10-248. The reason flag officers were named was due to the words of an official from that command who said the flag officers were not allowing the PT requirement into manpower calculations because they were unwilling to foot the bill, which they knew, he said, would be an increase in manning across the board. After attempting to fix the problem in-house, meeting with commanders one-on-one, and due diligence, I filed the complaint. I walked it up all the IG levels but it wasn't investigated (I literally walked it to the DoD/IG). A year or so after I initially filed the complaint, and around the time it was elevated to the SAF/IG level, the Air Force Audit Agency released its report showing that commanders across the Air Force were failing to comply with the AFI...a report that resulted in the new PT program and removed the requirement for commanders to provide duty time for physical fitness. The report made claims similar to mine, including the warning that an airman who died during the PT test might give cause to legal action against the Air Force. Although my complaint wasn't investigated, something was done to fix the problem and the credibility of the chain of command was bolstered. My actions didn't cure the disease of less-with-less perception at the expense of reality, but I like to think it helped treat one symptom while strengthening the mission and supporting airman.

But I was really hoping that this latest spin in the Big Blue hamster wheel would result in something other than me simply getting sweaty. The retaliation is, in my opinion, obvious. My experience and some research leads me to believe that the IG often fails to provide accountability and is content to simply provide the perception of accountability. I'm sure there are inspectors in the system who feel the same way, yet are hamstrung by the system. As one such IG, who I highly respect, told me once while we were parting, "Remember. I work for the commander." His message wasn't lost on me.

So here's the big picture from my perspective, start to finish, and I’ll let you readers be the judge. First, I filed the complaint already discussed (about PT). That didn't win me any friends. When I told the official I quoted in my complaint that I had done so based on his account, he emailed saying "I think you have created a problem for both of us." He was at least half right.

Then in PME I posted academically protected comments critical of the fighter pilot culture and cited my experience with fighter pilot leadership in my command. A fighter pilot student was angered and “invited” me to talk with my fighter pilot OG commander, whom he knew personally. He then illegally emailed my commentary and identity to fighter pilots in my command. The email went viral in the fighter pilot community and in my chain of command. A flag officer fighter pilot in my chain got the email and energized the commanders below him to confirm I wrote the comments. He visited my base and brought up my comments during his visit. I responded to my squadron commander over the phone (I was TDY) that I did write the comments but that they were protected. I was told the chain was "satisfied with my response." Buddies sent me some of the email chains that were bouncing around the military servers with vituperative commentary from various fighter pilots. It was interesting to note that several of the commentators said my views were not unlike those of our current CSAF and claimed this was the direction the Air Force was moving in. My thoughts and the recent fighter pilot firing had generated significant anger in that community.

The offending student admitted his infraction but wasn't removed from the course. I was censored from posting further comments to course discussion. I filed a petition for redress and Air University sat on it for several months. I then contacted the Air Force Times about a story on the importance of academic freedom, they contacted the Air Force to get releasable information on me, and days later I had another letter from a flag officer in my command saying my complaint had been substantiated.

I met with my local Public Affairs (PA) people about my proposed story. In the meeting, both PA officials were taking notes and I was very transparent and honest and extremely forthcoming. There were no indications in that meeting, or in any email correspondence, that they had any issues with my honesty at all. The PA lieutenant running the meeting was part of the wing staff and emailed me to thank me for my cooperation.

Around this same time, while I was pursuing the Air Force Times story and the academic freedom complaint, I was unlawfully arrested and charged with failing to use my blinker during a lane change. The police officer wrote up a ridiculous police report that explained that I had my license and registration in my hand when he came to my window, but that I refused to give them to him citing a Constitutional violation. Then, according to the report, he told me I was under arrest, I got out of the car, freely admitted to not using my blinker, and then later repeated the Constitutional violation claim. I told my chain of command what really happened and expressed my confidence that I would defeat the false charge. In a meeting, one commander (the one mentioned by the student who violated my academic freedom) told me, "well the cop said X, Y, and Z" when I talked to him on the phone. I pointed out an inconsistency in those statements with the police report and asked the commander to keep his notes for my later use. Weeks later I was told that he no longer had the notes. The false charge was later dismissed in court and a civil suit against the cop, who has been previously suspended for lying and intimidation, is pending.

Weeks later, and a few months before my primary promotion board, I was given an LOR and a UIF. This was the reprimand the IG recently found "reasonable" and "sound." The LOR had two charges. The first charge involved the unlawful arrest and read:
I found it disconcerting that the arresting officer cited your unwillingness to cooperate with his lawful requests and your aggressive behavior toward him as factors leading to your, otherwise unnecessary, arrest. Equally disturbing was your post-arrest boastful taunting of the officer... Your behavior and judgment during this incident was abysmal. Your actions were unprofessional and your conduct was unbecoming for an officer.
It's interesting the wing commander pronounced the cop's requests as lawful based on a police report, despite the charge not having gone to trial and despite my side of the story. In any case, I complied with the officer's requests immediately. The "taunting" claim was based on the twisted police report account of a statement I made to the police officer en route to jail. I told the police officer that I had deployed with the military several times, been shot at, killed many people, and watched far better men die to protect the Constitution he had just trampled on. As I sat in handcuffs in the backseat thinking about how I had just had my physical liberty taken from me because I had questioned a cop for unlawfully pulling me over, I thought of a soldier I had watched give the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq when he knowingly led a team through the front door of an insurgent location. I wanted to shame the police officer and remind him that our freedoms are not free. I thought about exactly what I wanted to say before saying it, and I have communicated what was said accurately. Still, in the police report that statement was inaccurately recorded as me telling the cop that he better "watch out" because I had killed people. In the LOR that became a taunt. I'm hopeful that I will get the audio from the police car and other evidence that the police department has taken great measures to conceal in order to prove my point.

The second and final charge in the LOR was that I lied about the existence of the blog you are reading now in my meeting with local PA (as detailed in a memo from the PA lieutenant to the wing king who gave me the reprimand). I covertly and legally recorded the conversation with PA, so I can prove that was not the case. The LOR charge states:
When asked if you had posted any material that may be of interest to the Air Force Times on any blog or public web site, you stated "no." It was only after repeated inquiries did you finally state that there "may be" information available to the Air Force Times on the internet. Your initial denials of your internet postings to the Public Affairs staff were deceptive and false. Such action leads me to question your integrity and forthrightness to military personnel in the official line of duty.
This charge was based on the memo provided by the local PA lieutenant to the wing commander. That memo falsely stated:
During a meeting with [Public Affairs], [I] was again asked if [I] published any content on the internet that the AF Times might be interested in. [I] denied posting information anywhere. When asked a second time [I] thought about it and confirmed that, "there might be something out there" and identified that [I] created a blogging site as a result of [my] experience with academic freedom.
The relevant portion of the transcript of that meeting (and the digital audio from which the transcript was made) contradicts the PA/LOR claim and shows the conversation proceeded as:
(PA) Do you have anything else out there [other than a proposed article sent to the AFT] that might pique their interest?
(Me) The Air Force Times?
(PA) Yeah, do you have any writings anything that…
(Me) Oh…yeah, I probably do.
(PA) Would you care to enlighten us or are you…
(Me) Well, I’d like to keep it separate I don’t plan on telling them anything about
my writings so I mean I have no writings that I plan on giving them.
(PA) Ok, when I go into an interview I’d like to make sure there are no
surprises…do you think there is any chance they might have these?
(Me) Oh ok, yeah they could, they might, have access to my blog, that’s true.
(PA) So what is your blog about?
(Me) You can go to it, it’s PickYourBattles.Net…
While crafting my response to the LOR I asked the wing commander for a copy of the PA memo and he provided it. It was written by one of the two PA officials at that meeting. I emailed the other official and the wing commander asking for a statement from the other PA official in the meeting. I got no response to either email and the second PA official never responded on the record.

Despite this evidence, and email evidence backing my clam that my blog hadn't been provided to the Air Force Times until after the meeting above and only after PA cleared me unconditionally on the story, the IG has found no wrongdoing. An officer with a significant combat record, no prior punishment in his record, no referral OPRs, and no negative feedback is ruined by the two charges above despite the evidence refuting those charges. Truth to power with the expected results. Lies used to accuse and punish an honest man. Standard hypocrisy. People have many disagreements with me in my day to day life, but no one questions my integrity. No one, that is, except some in power positions threatened by my willingness to provide that very honesty.

I have been told that my assignment to fly RPA for my previous command is probably not going to happen anymore. They took an assignment from me that they have to force other pilots to accept. The same OG who knows the student who violated my academic freedom, no longer had the notes showing inconsistent statements from the cop, and who told me I should not question an "authority figure," has been "working my assignment." He has ensured that other commanders at other bases know they don't have to accept me since I have an LOR/UIF. Instead, I'm told, I will likely go to one of two staff jobs in my next assignment. Two different possible jobs, two different locations, but both under the same command. And what command would that be? Here's a hint, I've never worked for that command before. Here's another hint, that command has more pilots who will be more likely familiar with my illegally disseminated academic criticisms of the fighter pilot community than any other command. And the person most likely behind my targeting will more easily continue to exercise a measure of control over me in the future. I'm like a cat being thrown into a dog kennel by the dog catcher. Am I being set up for further retaliation by a flag officer from that community? I think it's pretty clear.

The Air Force Times just published a story about the things that can get you booted during the personnel drawdown that is apparently looming before us. My guess is that when I get the results from my promotion board, I may not be offered continuation despite the fact I come from an undermanned and highly utilized combatant community and have an AFSC that is supposed to come with automatic continuation for those unworthy folks among us who are twice passed over for promotion. My guess is the leadership at my new command kennel won't be helpful to my cause and I will be forced out at the 15-16 year point. My guess is that any continued attempts to fly RPA and leverage my CAS background will be unsuccessful. Maybe I'm wrong. We'll see how my predictions go.

Edit: Thankfully on the first of June I was informed I did get the assignment and will be leaving soon to fly Reapers. I'm stoked!

11 comments:

  1. Bloke, I am always pleased beyond measure when the man beats the system. You make me want to stand up when you pass, Sir.

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  2. Thanks for the nice words but your compliment is really undeserved. Just trying to do my job and defend myself against undeserved retaliation.

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  3. Sir can I talk to you for advice

    Regards JD 910 257 3846

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  4. Sir could i talk to you ref a similar personal story

    Nautica2@live.com

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  5. Nautica2, you can post here about your personal story.

    If you want to keep it private, please email wingedryno@gmail.com from your official email account and provide your contact info and we'll go from there.

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  6. I didn't even read this blog past the IG complaint for PT issues...guys, our AF has many problems...huge problems...but someone that would file an IG complaint about PT time needs to pack his bags...give me a break dude - get your ass up out of the rack and PT, then go to work and quit sniveling...you're contributing to the USAF's poor reputation through your own weakness...do us a favor and move on.

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  7. Thanks e72 for your comment. I think you're making the assumption that I filed the complaint because I had a personal issue with PT. That would be an incorrect assumption. I filed it for a few reasons:

    1. The Air Force, in my opinion, has a "do more with less" disease that results in doing less with less while providing the image of doing more. This was one symptom that was easy to move on to help highlight that problem.

    2. The Air Force enacted a policy to damage the careers of those who failed the PT test, in a recession no less, while having a mandate from the old AFI 10-248 to provide PT time three times a week during the duty day. A rule was being violated and both mission and people suffered as a result.

    So, I made this decision to fight a symptom of a greater disease. Had nothing to do with myself and PT.

    Thanks again for your comment.

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  8. Very inspirational and commend you on standing up for yourself. Toxic environments make good leaders want out of an organization and leaves future toxic leaders in place. If we had people of your caliber in leadership positions throughout our military forces we would be bringing up well rounded people who would fight for what is right rather than passively complain about how unfair things are.

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  9. This comment coming from good ole boy I'm sure. Maybe an abuse of leadership needs to happen o you to see it from below

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  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

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