"...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, March 18, 2020

Dave Blair, Treason, and Failure Before the American People

So a few months ago my phone started pinging me.  Somehow I was part of this group I had never signed up for, that was labeled for a military unit that I've never been a part of and hadn't even heard of.  Got a string of messages pinging my phone and I was wondering if it was some hacking attempt.  I sent some screen grabs to a buddy of mine who might know and he also had no clue.  I looked for ways to leave the group on my computer, clicked everything I could click, but there was no such option.  Eventually their chats went away, I stopped being bothered by them, and I forgot about the odd group chat.

Yesterday, however, I started getting pinged in another conversation from this group.  I did a bit more research and discovered the unit.  It was a drone unit and this time some of the phone numbers included names.  The name of the first guy in the group stood out.

Dave Blair.  Air Force Academy graduate, Dave Blair.

Dave Blair was a Gunship co-pilot who was sent to drones before upgrading to aircraft commander.  He was known as "smart" in the community and kinda rogue and renegade, not afraid to voice new smart ideas before leadership.  I used to have people contacting me all the time asking me if I knew the guy, telling me that he also flew Gunships and that the stuff he was saying was much like what I was saying.

Finally, I connected with Dave Blair online when I was at Laughlin because so many people told me I should and I had read some of his writings published in journals.  We had never crossed paths in my five years as a Gunship co-pilot and aircraft commander, but people kept sending his stuff to me and saying we were essentially meant to be together, in some kind of purely heterosexual nerd way, because we both had similar soapboxes and both were vocal advocates for drone technology back before it was still un-cool.

We chatted on social media and became "Facebook friends" and sent some papers back and forth and my impression of him was that he was wordy and tried too hard to sound smart.  Kind of like Immanuel Kant who sounds impressive to most people because they can't understand what he's saying, or like watching some Dennis Miller bit where he brings up some obscure reference and everybody laughs because they don't want to seem like the dumb one who doesn't get it.  Still, I liked most of Dave's points and I really liked his "out of the box" thinking.  I like guys who think differently, especially back in those days because the Air Force was on the verge of a revolution of how we could better support warfighters, and we were getting a lot of resistance from cultural norms led by careerist and bureaucratic idiots.

As an Instructor Pilot (IP) at Laughlin I was very vocal about how we needed to forgo our fun flying jobs and concentrate on a better way to do business for the American people. I was adamant that UAS/RPA was the ticket.  What Elon Musk recently said (correctly), I was blogging about here more than a decade ago.  I was a supporter of unmanned technology, and toward the end of my assignment at Laughlin, we were non-volunteering UPT graduates to go fly drones.  Which sucks for a guy chasing a dream that involves yanking and banking when, back then, it wasn't clear that a guy going to drones out of UPT would ever get out to a manned aircraft.  So, I put my money where my mouth was and volunteered to fly Reapers at Cannon AFB because I thought it was the right thing to do for the American people.  As a bonus, I had enjoyed more than a decade of flying assignments, and me raising my hand would save a youngster from getting non-vol'd to a potential black hole.

When I got there, I hung out with Dave Blair a few times.  He was in a different squadron (the same one Brandon Bryant, who also loves lofty assertions to the public while failing to live up to them in secret, was in).  We met at a coffee shop once and saw each other at work a few times and talked online still.  I discovered that he was a religious nut job who had clearly never touched a woman but I didn't hold that against him.  While others talked about Dave Blair like he was some kind of Air Power genius (like the Dennis Miller audience member referenced above), I thought he was kinda scatter shot intellectually. But I liked his writings on the Constitution of the United States and one post in particular about sacrificing for the nation.  So much so I got his permission to re-post his writing on this very blog, his "Back to Basics" essay.  I even had him review my Air University master's thesis.

Then my view of Dave Blair completely tanked.  When I discovered the real Dave Blair, the guy behind his lofty words, the motto of the 19th Special Operations Squadron (a unit that had previously trained us to fly Gunships way back when) rang in my mind.  Deeds Not Words.

I went into work after a long weekend and the mission I was tasked with flying was one that was absolutely, without question, a violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.  So, naturally, as a military officer and professional who took an oath to support and defend that document -- who was duty bound to refuse unlawful orders even if it meant losing my career just five years short of retirement -- I refused on the spot.  I didn't fly that mission.  And I never did.  Eventually I resigned my commission over it.

I won't go into all the details of what transpired after, although this draft video about my career discusses it, but suffice it to say that Dave Blair and I had a conversation where I said, "Dude, you know that mission violates the Constitution."  Dave Blair, the intellectual that he is, who had publicly discussed the importance of moral courage and the oath to the Constitution, admitted to me that the mission was unlawful.  So I said, "So you've got to refuse it and honor your oath, this is game time."  I'll never forget his response.

"I'm sorry, Ryno."

Turns out Dave was all words rather than deeds.  No moral courage.  No fidelity to the American people who paid for his college and sent him money every month.  Dave Blair can write, because that takes no courage and is easy.  The doing part for him though, well, that's just too much.  When the pressure is on, Dave folds, his words no substitute for actually believing those words and having the character to abide by them.

“... That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” That was how it went. There wasn’t an exception for ‘achieving childhood dreams,’ nor an exclusion for ‘as long as leadership has a coherent plan,’ nor a caveat for ‘as long as you’re still doing what you signed up for.’
The opening lines from Dave Blair's article, Back to Basics

Anyway, I was reminded of that story given this new squadron including me in their correspondence.  After not being able to figure out how to leave the group (turns out you can't on a Mac, but you can on a phone), I finally messaged them all back and asked to be removed from the group, while reminding them of their oaths of office.  After listening to their messages blowing up my phone I figured I'd do so while giving them a topic to discuss at the next squadron meeting.  After all, de-briefing our failures is a tradition in the flying community and Dave Blair has a powerful debrief on that topic he should share.  But he won't.

Hilarious mayhem ensued as the members of the group chat appeared surprised that something had went wrong, one sharing a meme about a "security breach" in their chat on an application you can download for Android or iPhone and on various computer operating systems.  Nothing says "secure" like the iTunes app store...

After it was all said and done, I'm now free from my phone pinging me with their jokes and one liners and coordination.  And hopefully, but improbably, my brief insertion into the conversation will lead to Dave Blair explaining to his current squadron how he utterly failed as a military officer in the most egregious way so that they can all learn and do better.  His failure is the kind that in the old days might have come with a charge of treason.

Today it comes with promotion.  And so it goes.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Does the Air Force Reserve Want Americans to Die?

Air Force Reserve idiots in charge, Americans do not have the time to suffer your stupidity.  Unfuck yourself immediately!

Update:  Finally, some common sense from above, and hopefully there is no virus transmission from this weekend's Reserve drill weekend.  Info I'm getting from Reservists over this weekend is that people are not happy at all about having to show up.  And they shouldn't be happy about it.  Their leadership is risking the lives of their families with their inability to make obviously correct decisions.

Update:  The Navy has halted its Reservists from going to drill over the next two months.  The Air Force Reserve has mostly left it up to individual Wing Commanders, although those who live outside the local area or in another State from their unit are prohibited in going to drill weekends due to DoD guidance.

With the President of the United States addressing the nation about the obvious and serious threat of the coronavirus pandemic, the Air Force Reserve is still taking "weekend warriors" from communities across America and sending them for one weekend a month drill at bases like Beale AFB, in California.  This means that Reservist are leaving their hometowns across the nation, and flying through airports each month, to gather with others who also fly in from other areas of the country.

In case it's not clear where I'm headed with this... how incredibly fucking stupid!  Just exactly the kind of decision I would expect from the type of risk averse idiot who gets promoted in our Air Force.  These morons are going to kill Americans.

(Map from 12 March 2020 -- click the link to see how much worse it is now)
Click here for a world tracker of the virus from John Hopkins

and click here for a more granular tracker of individual cases and click here for testing data by State and click here for a list of symptoms

Now, maybe you're thinking the Reserve military has to show up because they have a critical war time mission.  Let me rid you of that fallacy.  If the Air Force Reserve were to vanish overnight, nobody would care except perhaps those who get a paycheck from that organization and those who manage the "pots of money" for that organization.  There is nothing our Air Force Reserve does that matters so much that Americans would even notice.  If that hurts your feelings, I don't care.  I'm not saying the AFR doesn't do good things, and there are some positions that are important, but most of them are not.

A message from Twitter

The reality is most of these non-essential weekend warriors show up to a base like Beale AFB and then they go through a litany of idiotic Computer Based Training (CBT) programs on their computers to get caught up on the never-ending list of CYA bullshit that is put on their plate, stuff like Information Assurance (IA) or Fire extinguisher training.  Of course, they do that after they spend a couple of hours fixing their own computers that usually don't work (assuming the network is up and some computer support person is available to help them).  Then, after they take care of all that computer nonsense, they might get to the real work.  Stuff like writing OPRs and EPRs on their computer, fabricating bullshit everyday stuff to look like world saving efforts on paper, working on yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly and hourly Award Packages for people in Microsoft Word, updating spreadsheets and PowerPoint documents to track whatever stupid thing their commander has them tracking for whatever pet project, updating documents and checklists on their computer for the next "inspection" and, of course, answering phone calls.  Lots and lots of phone calls.  Then back to typing on the computer.

Now there are people on the flight line who do more than that and while their services might be mission essential, even they spend a great deal of their time as discussed above.  At any rate, I'm not talking about mission essential folks who are mostly staffed by full timers.

Many Reservists, if not most, spend their time on a computer all day, and on the phone.  So with Amazon and Microsoft and USAA and many other companies having people stay home and work remotely to avoid spreading the virus (and these people aren't even commuting from across the nation), and where even high schools have closed and figured out how to move to online education, why in hell isn't the Air Force Reserve having non-mission critical people work from home using a VPN and a cell phone?  When California has banned gatherings of more than 250 people, and the Air Force has even banned the public from attending boot camp graduations?  When the Air Force Academy has banned the public from visiting and the Air Force has cancelled airshows?  Is the Air Force Reserve part time warrior and full time stupid?  Why don't they make the obvious decision given their unique role to be a serious vector in this pandemic?

I'll tell you why.  Because their decision makers and the installation commanders are cowards who don't care about the well being of elderly and other Americans who will likely be exposed through their idiocy, and because they know their computer networks are shit, held together with band-aids for decades.  That's right, in 2020 with self driving cars, drones, new rockets, Artificial Intelligence, and iPhones that practically read your mind, your United States Air Force cannot get its computers to work reliably so that people can accomplish truly meaningless busy work remotely (and often not even locally).  This has been the case for years and it's no secret to anybody who serves.

Colonel Andy "Spoo" Clark, Wing Commander, Beale AFB

So, as a result, Reservists will leave an uninfected town in the USA, fly through Seattle Airport, and spend a weekend at a place like Beale AFB.  They will spend their time on a computer and on a phone, they will drive off base to a hotel, they will eat at public establishments and then they will get on another airplane and fly back through perhaps San Francisco to their home outside of California.  And they will do this for a weekend out of every month, and sometimes more, hopefully not getting the virus from an airport gate agent like this Alaska Airlines gate agent in San Francisco who tested positive or from the touchy feely un-American joke we call TSA like the agent who tested positive.  I know we're American so common sense isn't something we really do, but airports are absolutely dangerous as hell.  You probably can't think of a more dangerous place to be during a pandemic, unless it's an airport in Seattle or California.

Even active duty is already carrying the disease from the west coast into the interior of the nation:

An active-duty airman from Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma has presumptively tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The Air Force said the airman is the first known to have contracted COVID-19.  Air Education and Training Command said Thursday that the airman contracted COVID-19 after returning from leave in the Seattle, Washington area earlier this month, and is now undergoing evaluation and treatment.

Hopefully Reservists will come home today and tomorrow from their meaningless drill weekend without carrying the coronavirus with them and won't have contracted it from California or Washington State or from getting it from some asshole who flies on an airline knowing he has the disease but not telling anybody.  But with at least one airline pilot infected with the disease and regularly flying into and out of the west coast, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that one of them will more than likely transmit the virus in the coming days or weeks to their families and hometowns, or perhaps they will bring the virus from their hometowns to Beale AFB and infect the whole unit.  Either way, while the Reservists will probably be okay, the people they will be around won't necessarily be and people will more than likely die as a result.  Some old folk's home somewhere, some person with a compromised immune system or some other ailment who had the misfortune of thanking them for their service.  But at least the dying can know that their sacrifice was worth it, because Airman Snuffy got his fire extinguisher computer training done in person as a result of the world's greatest Air Force being unable to figure out the basic computer networking that every other company in America has no issue with.

So you may be thinking this is just more apocalyptic fear mongering about the pandemic.  Fine.  Perhaps everything will work out just beautifully as our basic human psychology wants us to believe and the ever increasing number of infections and deaths in the United States will just magically stop.  Ignore that prediction or any other prediction though, and focus.  This is a matter of Operational Risk Management.  Is the risk worth the reward?  The answer to that question is a resounding, FUCK NO!  Elderly Americans should not be put at risk because some Reservist had to fly to California to accomplish Suicide Awareness training on a computer when they could have done so remotely over an internet connection if only commanders knew how to properly manage resources.

For my part, I intend to write some letters, make some phone calls, and put in some FOIA requests, and do some research to ensure that the coming body count is laid squarely at the feet of the individual coward Air Force "leaders" who are responsible.  I want them put on notice.  And then when the obvious occurs, I want to ensure they get to add the death of Americans to their resume.  Then they can walk that resume over to Amazon or Microsoft but they will have to do it remotely for the time being.  Because those companies aren't led by absolute Big Blue Kool-Aid morons who think having went to Air War College makes them capable decision makers when the pressure on.  It obviously doesn't.

The DOD has halted all travel to "Level 3" virus locations (widespread ongoing transmission), but unfortunately the CDC's generous map of those locations doesn't include any locations inside the United States.  Now the CDC is saying that Iceland is a Level 3 risk and so no DoD personnel can travel to or from Iceland.  Iceland has 117 cases of coronavirus and has an area of 40,000 square miles.  Washington State has 373 confirmed cases and is 71,000 square miles (edit: a day later Washington State is now reporting more than 450 cases making non-essential Reservists doing weekend duty at McChord AFB incredibly insane, edit:  two days later the number is more than 500).  California has 179 confirmed cases (edit: two days later, that number is more than 300) although it's much larger at 164,000 square miles.

Washington State is clearly "Level 3" and worse than Iceland even though the CDC map hasn't labeled it as such.  Yet the Air Force Reserve, given the authority to make the right call as have local installation commanders, is still chugging right along as though everything is normal, full steam ahead through the train tunnel with the big bright light shining at the other end.  "But somebody above me didn't make the call and I'm scared to do it myself because I'm a real leader, mission first, people always!"

Meanwhile, President Trump is reportedly considering travel bans to California and Washington State.

Lt. Gen. Richard W. Scobee, Commander, Air Force Reserve

If history is any indicator, the kind of yes-men absolute idiots we promote will make the right decision but not until it's too late.  That's also known as making the wrong decision, especially when it's so easy to forecast the future state of affairs.  In the meantime, Reservists will show up to drill weekends not wanting to risk their jobs, too scared to say no to idiot bosses who can't see the obvious and only correct decision for mission and people right in front of their faces, and will bring the virus back to their spouses and kids.  Leadership that can't provide working computer systems in the United States Air Force certainly can't be expected to make smart decisions by their people in order to safeguard their people or the mission, having spent too much time learning the vice of getting promoted.

The Air Force Reserve needs to put the weight of its critical operations on full timers and active duty and keep part timers from traveling to and from the unit.  Figure out how to use part timers to do work remotely.  And start getting rid of all the nonsense queep that you've been talking about getting rid of for the past decade because that stuff is only a drag at a time when things need to work efficiently.

Reservists who have an ounce of common sense, who understand that multiple world leaders are getting infected along with high profile actors and Senator staffers must understand that the worthless cunts we promote and put birds and stars on, lack the capability to protect you (and therefore your families and communities) during your valueless drill weekend.  And that's if they even care to keep you and your family and your community safe, which is questionable when they compare your well being or the mission against that highest of all values in their world, their own careers.  There isn't much time.  If you care about your family, your kids, and your parents and if you care about your local community, and your unit is in one of these Level 3 areas inside the United States, you may need to tell the Air Force Reserve to go fuck itself if they don't fix this issue right-now.  If Air Force leadership continues this incredibly insane path and doesn't over the next hours reverse itself, you need to tell your boss you're out and stay home.  If you continue to show up, you likely will make it through the sickness fine, but you will do so by costing hospital space for others and you will do so at the cost of spreading the disease to others who will not fare so well.  Are their lives worth that tiny paycheck?  Make a decision and raise your voices or your families and your neighbors will pay for it dearly.  There is precious little time to get it right.

This is a fucking pandemic.  Pretty darn good ain't gonna cut it.  The Air Force Reserve needs to unfuck itself yesterday.