"...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

Sunday, April 23, 2023

The Air Force Got it Right -- My Frau Pinned on O-6

For nearly a month now I have been in constant proximity to an Air Force Reserve full bird Colonel.  There have been no LORs, no attempts to UCMJ me, and no face-to-face screaming matches.  So it has been a bit of a novel experience, but not one I would normally write about.  It goes without saying that my wife's promotion is not my achievement just as it goes without saying, for those who know me, that I don't see promotion as an achievement at all.  I see promotion to O-6 as a negative indicator and likely indicative of character flaw.  While there are exceptions in my experience, and while my bias is likely less applicable in the Reserve ecosystem, promotion to a "senior leader" rank is not something to brag about in my view.  And in my wife's case, given her long list of accomplishments, military promotion doesn't even rate a mention anyway.

But I am writing about it.  So, why?  Well, because within the last couple years, I learned in casual conversation with the wife that another Colonel, many years ago, tried to ruin her military career because of my actions.  My actions which were wholly unrelated to my wife's performance.  That worthless military officer failed to ruin my wife's career, however, as my wife's promotion demonstrates, and it gives me pleasure to point that out and to remind those still serving that it is possible to do what makes sense for the nation.  Promoting excellence can be done even in these crazy days where up is down and down is up, and I like to point out when the Air Force does something right when I get the chance.  Hence this blog post.

It's odd that I would have only learned recently of the time my wife got a "kiss of death" stratification on her Officer Performance Report over a decade ago, but that's how the wife is.  She lets such things roll off her back and she doesn't get animated over things that would get my blood pumping.  So it wasn't until a recent trip down memory lane on a long drive that she mentioned that this had happened more than a decade ago.  We were discussing the time I refused an unlawful order to assassinate an American citizen, who wasn't located in a war zone and who presented no imminent threat, and how the command had contacted the base Judge Advocate General (JAG) office to start proceedings against me (likely an administrative separation) and how the JAG only later discovered that my wife, then an O-4 in the Reserves, worked for her for one month a year or whatever.

My wife had nothing to do with my case, didn't review the legal proceedings or my file, and stayed completely out of it because it would have been inappropriate, obviously, for her to have involved herself in any way.  The JAG officers work for the commander and that particular idiot commander was engaging the JAG office against me.  And yet, despite my wife having nothing to do with my actions, her boss later wrote her a performance report with the dreaded "continue to challenge" push line; a signal to promotion boards that an officer shouldn't be promoted.  Ask me how I know that.

It was a breathtaking move that demonstrated the complete lack of character that our service usually rewards through promotion.  Not just because it was wrong to attempt to punish an officer simply for being married to another officer who refused an unlawful order, but because it was as petulant a move as it would have been had Phil Jackson tried to kick Michael Jordan off the team because he didn't like something Jordan's wife had done.  It may be a stretch to liken my better half with Air Jordan, sure, fine.  But at a minimum she was a starter when the Chicago Bulls won the National Championship several years in a row.

People like to brag about their spouses, or at least some do, but I'm just stating facts.  My spouse not only graduated from Harvard and then served years on active duty as an intelligence officer, during a time of war (actual war, in the beginning of a war, when the real war stuff happens) for the most combat deployed squadron in the Air Force, but she did so with astounding competence that benefited me and my fellow Air Commandos in a meaningful way back when things were real at the start (and even before it started).  At a time when there was a real threat to us as we pushed into threat envelopes in the earliest days, and my wife was responsible for finding and pointing out threats before our missions throughout the chaos.  My wife's competence and months of twenty hour work days kept us out of trouble while the memory of Spirit 03 was fresh in our minds.

Her boss at the JAG office many years ago (I don't know, but I know) has never in her life done anything that mattered as much or done it as well.  But, to be fair, at the time my wife got the trash performance report with the embedded dagger, she was a JAG, not an intelligence officer, and so what really mattered was her legal competence.  And that's where it becomes even more clear how staggeringly petty and ridiculous this move was.  After leaving active duty, my wife attended a top ten law school on a full ride scholarship.  And then graduated number one out of that school.  And then she went on to clerk for a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

For those outside the legal community, that may not sound like that big of a deal.  The word "clerk" evokes images of a white coat behind a counter in a drug store but for those in the legal community, however, the term gives credibility to my earlier reference to the Chicago Bulls.  Books are written about the Clerkorati (a term the late great Justice Scalia used to refer to them), there are Wikipedia pages tracking them, and they are top movers and shakers in the nation who travel in powerful circles.  Their spouses are typically cut from the same cloth, with your humble blogger providing an obvious exception.  When my wife was clerking and I would visit the high court for functions, I hoped I would eventually meet another clerk's spouse who had a normal job and who didn't graduate from Yale Law or run some high powered venture.

I thought I had met one such spouse at Justice Stevens' retirement, may he rest in peace, which was attended by nearly all of the justice's many former clerks.  An older couple walked up to my wife, who was clerking for the justice at the time, introduced themselves and the lady said "I'm doing this and that and legal work for such and such" and her husband said, "and I work at Home Depot."  I was elated to finally find a normal spouse with a normal job until my wife whispered to me, "he's the CEO of Home Depot."  And as it turns out, he was the former clerk.  All this is to say that people with my wife's legal credentials don't normally provide their expertise to the military despite the allure of regular PT tests, software that doesn't work, and idiotic CBTs.  I would not be surprised to learn that my wife is the only clerk to wear a uniform.

All that is well and good but it may not illustrate my point as well as the free market can, since it places a monetary figure on competence.  Show me the money, to include yet another sports reference in this blog post.  So consider then that law school graduates, from the nation's top law schools, hope to get an interview with the biggest and most lucrative law firms.  But that's not so with the top graduates of the top law schools who become Supreme Court clerks.  Rather those same law firms hope that they will get granted a chance to be interviewed by the clerk.  And if the firm is able to convince the clerk to join their ranks, those firms pay the young lawyers a standard signing bonus with no contract attached.  The Supreme Court clerk bonus these days is about a half a million dollars.  For just agreeing to take a job.  It may not be what the Bulls pay for top talent, but it's in the same ball park.  Or basketball court.

So that was the caliber of officer that my wife's NPC boss thought needed to be "challenged."  What an utterly ridiculous attempt to destroy my wife's military career.  Not just illustrated by my wife's been-there-done-that wartime experience in an Air Force career field that actually mattered.  Not even best illustrated by her gilded academic credentials, the circles she travels in, or the fact that her legal skills are highly prized and compensated in the real legal profession.  Rather, the absolute idiocy of that former JAG boss is better demonstrated by the fact that, my wife is insanely competent, hard working, caring, and inexplicably (at least to my raised-in-a-trailer-park mind) humble and down to earth.  You'll have to take my word for this one, I can't provide a Wiki link or an article from the New York Times for this assertion.  But if you were to meet her, you'd never equate her with the picture I have just painted because she would never mention such things.  She probably won't even like this blog post (update: confirmed, she doesn't, which means she joins the ranks of a great many other O-6s who also don't like what I write here).  But if you spoke with her and her accomplishments were to somehow come up, you wouldn't get even the faintest impression of superiority or arrogance.  Because she truly doesn't see herself that way.  When I first met her I thought her demeanor must have been calculated and that she just behaved that way for social acceptance knowing that people would be quick to judge her for going to a fancy school (a joke of an institution that evokes an entirely different kind of righteous judgment these days).  But I was wrong about that and after nearly two decades of being hitched, I can attest that she hasn't got an ounce of pretension in her.  It's truly astonishing.

Her blend of incredible competence, work ethic, and concern for others coupled with this utterly humble demeanor, is no doubt why she has been so prized by commanders throughout her career, and why her military accolades include being Distinguished Graduate (DG) from every Air Force school she has attended, and number one ratings on most of her performance reports up until that point when a worthless, utterly disgraceful, Air Force JAG slapped her with a push line intended to inflict unjustified and undeserved damage.

But that push line failed to deliver its intended effect, the USAFR elevated competence within its ranks, and I now have a reason to update this blog with rare positive news about our military.

But now I have to get off the computer.  A full bird Colonel is nearly done making my breakfast.


  1. We've had our disagreements over the years ... but I've always admired your open and notorious worship of your better half. I dare say, and I think you'll agree, if she can tolerate you, that alone is deserving of much more than O-6. This is a nice post. Hope you're both keeping well.

    1. Thanks for the well wishes. Outside of the nation crumbling as predicted and the tyranny continuing to become undeniable while people paid to protect our rights prove unequal and unconcerned with the task, things are swell. Swell enough anyway, since I don't have kids that will have to endure the Hell that undeserving Americans managed to create for them from the lap of luxury.

      Anyway, I hope you and yours are well too. As you've said, we've had our disagreements, but you didn't always get it wrong. Just when we disagreed. Cheers.