"...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

Monday, January 27, 2014

They Say if You Do the Right Thing, You Will Pay For It

I've heard it for much of my career.  If you take a stand in the Air Force, if you refuse an unlawful order, if you [insert right thing here], you will pay a price.  You will be crushed.  You will lose all your birthdays, you will be destroyed!

It's a rationalization that cowards tell themselves (and others), to rationalize their own cowardice.  They provide their views under the auspices of mentorship, or friendly advice, but they're simply trying to relieve the guilt they feel when faced with a military officer who actually displays the courage they think they're entitled to claim simply because they logged a 1.0 in the container down range.

Well, wouldn't you know it, in my case it turns out they were wrong.  Insert shocked face here.  Whether cowards I knew in real life, or one of the pansies over at the Digital Clown Show, their hopeful warnings of annihilation for making good on my oath were flatly wrong.

To be fair, principle often does come with a hefty personal price.  That is why principle often requires a healthy dose of courage.  More importantly, we don't take an oath to support our Constitution only when it benefits us personally.  It's part of that whole service thing.  How it will turn out is no more relevant when we're faced with doing the right thing, or refusing to do the wrong thing, than it is when we are tasked to fly downtown in a high risk mission.

But what is interesting to me is, at the end of the day, after I refused an unlawful order that put me on some very serious radars, the Air Force did the right thing.  One person, some anonymous person I do not know, did the right thing and as a result, our Air Force did the right thing.

I left my last base with a referral performance report, an LOR, a UIF, and no PCS medal, but I did leave with my security clearances returned back to me.  That was after more than a year of being swept under a non-operational rug where I probably averaged eight hour lunch breaks each day when I wasn't cutting up with the other guys, and occasionally I ran into my former "peers" looking like zombies with their six on, one off hellish schedules.  I stayed operational as long as I could to help out, but I was of course eventually removed to a life of full weekends, training days, four day weekends and down days.  It was a refreshing break, though not one I wanted.

And now, after a year in one of the best locations of my career, with great working hours, and leadership that artfully balances mission and people, with world class skiing just a couple hours away and great travel and hiking in the mountains, and one of the world's largest cities nearby with all of its attractions, I am pulling chocks off to my final adventure.

I leave this assignment with my first ever performance report stratification (yes, chuckle), no UIF, no paperwork, a PCS medal, a great going away plaque (that says, "Am I Being Detained?!"), and the highest fitness test score of my career.  Refreshing.  And I'm heading out to again fly the T-6 Texan II, only this time trading in Del Rio, TX for the non-Border-Patrol-checkpoint-infested locale of Pensacola, Florida.  Two years later, I will retire.

So yeah, the cowards were wrong.  They underestimated the Air Force's ability to do the right thing.  So did I.

Some have credited me with orchestrating this master plan to leave the worst assignment I have ever known (outside of the very fulfilling job of providing vitally needed air power to support our guys on the ground), to gain what is widely considered one of the best flying jobs around.  They credit me with being "smart" as though I'm some kind of Keyser Soze in a flight suit.

While I'm sort of flattered, and kind of offended, that isn't correct.  I didn't volunteer for that assignment while scheming to be removed from it.

I simply did the right thing by the nation and the taxpayers as I swore I would do, and the Air Force ultimately did right by me.

Something to remember the next time somebody warns you against measuring up as a commissioned officer, charged to support and defend our Constitution without any mental reservation, or purpose of evasion.


  1. "One person, some anonymous person I do not know, did the right thing and as a result, our Air Force did the right thing."
    What if that person hadn't?

  2. Then I more than likely would have been administratively separated after a very public fight. And given the nature of admin separation boards, I would have probably been discharged as the order would have been presumed to be legal, since it's not a real legal proceeding.

    And I would have held my head up high, as one of the few public servants who actually puts his country before his own well being and convenience. There is a reason it's called public service. I'm willing to pay the ultimate price on foreign lands, so I'm certainly willing to pay the ultimate career price here defending the constitutional rights of those who pay me to do exactly that.