"...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

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Small Victory in a Long War

I have a confession to make. I hope my reputation isn't forever tarnished with this revelation, but, well here goes. I stood trial yesterday. I was accused of the high crime of "failing to use my blinker during a lane change." I know readers may not want to associate with an accused blinker non-user so I understand if you quit reading now. At the trial, the cop showed up and sat several rows from my lawyer and myself. The judge dismissed the false charge. One small victory in a long war.

So what? Well, that one charge served as the catalyst for ruining my Air Force career. At least on paper it did.

While I can't divulge everything that happened during the traffic stop, since my civil lawsuit against the police department is pending, I will detail the events that led to my arrest. That's right, arrest. I live in an enlightened state where police offices have a wide array of made up offenses they can pick to justify arresting somebody they want to punish. Failing to use a blinker is one.

The cop pulled me over in a downtown area. I had my license and registration in hand when he approached the window and asked for them. I asked why he had pulled me over and he said, "I pulled you over because you have an out of state license plate and I want to make sure you have a driver's license." I said, "Confirm you randomly pulled me over without cause?" He said, "Get out of the vehicle." I said, "Confirm you're now ordering me out of my vehicle without cause?" He confirmed the order and I got out. Quick note: the courts have stated that roving stops (pulling people over randomly without reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity) is illegal and a violation of the Fourth Amendment. This stop was unconstitutional. He took my license and registration as I got out, and told me to face my car. Cuffs. From his approach to my arrest took no more than 20 seconds or so. I later asked him why he was arresting me and that's when he came up with the blinker charge. He filled out some paperwork and said I had one chance, I could sign the citation and be on my way or spend the night in jail. I said I'd sign the citation but that I remained concerned because he said he had pulled me over for out of state tags. He said, "That's it. You're going to jail."

And I did. The police report was ridiculous and not believable on its face. There's a lot more I'd like to provide about this dirty cop...he has previously been suspended from the force for lying and intimidation. But I'll stop at this point and let my lawyers bring up that information in the civil suit.

So the next day when I got out of jail I had to meet with a commander. Service dress. I won't discuss the content of those discussions but suffice it to say there was a difference in opinion concerning the oath to support and defend the Constitution, questioning Constitutional violations, and the like.

Several weeks later I received a Letter of Reprimand (LOR). It had two charges. The first charge was that I was unprofessional etc etc during a "routine traffic stop," and the charge was based entirely on the lying cop's police report. The second charge was that I lied to local Public Affairs (PA) in a meeting concerning the academic freedom violation (previously blogged about) and a story I was considering writing with the Air Force Times. I was shocked to see the PA officer had written up a memo saying that I had lied in the meeting about having a blog and only after repeated questions did I admit I had one. This formed the second charge, that I'm a liar, no integrity, etc, and of course bolstered the first charge.

Fortunately I covertly recorded the conversation with PA (completely legal) and have digital proof that the PA officer's claim was incorrect and that I had not lied. I was very transparent, as is my nature. That digital evidence wasn't provided with my LOR response because my lawyer's request to extend the response date for the LOR wasn't granted and my lawyer needed more time to turn over every stone to confirm I hadn't broken any laws, rules, or regulations with my recording. But my LOR response was incredibly good even without the digital evidence. I was given the LOR anyway.

An IG complaint was filed for retaliation. A package was sent to the Air Force Board of Corrections, since I met my primary promotion board with that LOR/UIF sitting in my records and it's certain I won't be promoted as a result. The digital evidence was provided and both processes are ongoing. I've got a long way to go in this war but at least I've won a small battle.

I was also unmatched from an assignment as a result of the LOR/UIF. I had volunteered to fly RPA for the Air Force and was, of course, quickly matched to an assignment. That was undone and it appears I will no longer get my number one assignment choice. I cringed when I volunteered for it. But I did volunteer because I support my senior leadership and the program needs motivated people and I love providing support to my brothers on the ground. My friend Dave explains the rationale perfectly and I blogged about his SWJ article. I thought I could help with that cultural transformation but it appears a fabricated LOR will keep that from happening. It's a strange world when highly qualified pilots aren't allowed to fill the number one need of the Air Force because of nonsensical fabrication.


  1. You are being punished because you question authority, any authority. You are a danger to the organization because you are not perceived as a "team player" which is a euphemism for docile servant or underling, but rather, perceived as a smart, courageous, possibly stubborn, intelligent man. You march to a different drummer than others. It doesn't matter that you are right and others are wrong in the eyes of your superiors. It should, but that's not the real issue. The real issue is that they can't trust you because you will defend the truth as you see it, rather than them and their decisions. You are a dangerous man, an idealist. They don't care about the truth. They care about defending their position in a completely flawed bureaucracy full of many stupid and useless rules that are there to protect the system rather than the people and property it was set up to protect in the first place. These rules would be thrown aside in a real war, but then, you'd be fighting and self-sacrificing in a combat position risking your life daily in a "real" war like WW II, Korea, or Vietnam, against similarly equipped opponents. Cops wouldn't be necessarily giving you blinker tickets either. The question you have to ask yourself is, "Will it be worth it?" You are fighting over essentially trivial matters in the eyes of other people and some of them have the power to harm your career. You will have to decide at some point whether you love the USAF more than fighting its bureaucracy, rules, and incompetent or cunning officers. You only have three options here, accept the situation, try to change it, or ultimately leave. If you are fearless, and you seem to be, you'll take these fights as far as you can. But you might not be a USAF officer for very much longer. Your job security is at risk. Is that what you ultimately want? Or do you want to remain in the USAF serving your country?

    I suppose what I am saying is that you will be offered the choice of taking the easy way out and being a conformist, of being a rebel and fixing the system within, or of being forced to resign. The middle and latter choices are risky and full of job insecurity during a time of high unemployment. I hope you fight the good fight against ignorance, ruthlessness, and cunning, but that you make wiser choices than I have. We are the same in that we are smart and probably stubborn, yet different in a sense. I didn't enjoy the fights I fought. I fought them because that was the right thing to do, or what I thought was the right thing to do at the time. I won small victories, ultimately lost (jobs), for the most part. But winning isn't the reason why we fight. We are fighting to teach others what is true or truth as we perceive it. Sometimes we fight because we are just stubborn. And, you don't always know what the immediate outcome will be. Sometimes, a failure will actually be better for you than a victory because you'll learn more about yourself and others. Or, you appear to lose, yet ultimately win (Jesus, MLK, Jr., Gandhi). There are deeper truths to know than the surface truths of right and wrong.

    The human world does not notice the quiet, competent people who successfully prevent failures and disasters from occurring, and it tends to punish those who are Cassandras. Cassandra was cursed in that she knew the outcome with certainty, yet no one would believe her. Look at Brooksley Born. She lost her fight, but she was proven correct by the failure of LTCM and the Financial Crisis in 2008. And, we still haven't fixed the problem she tried to solve. So, I hope you have much better fortune than Cassandra, Brooksley Born, myself and others like us. I'll be rooting for you. You can't keep a good man down. And, some of the best soldiers are rebels at heart. Good luck and may Fortune and Providence smile on your choices and endeavors.

  2. JB, thanks much. I made a new blog post out of my response to your comment.

  3. Schiller: "...against stupidity the very Gods fight in vain."