June 1, 2008  

A manly Air Force

While the Air Force fleet is aging, manpower is being cut and I see pilots leaving active duty in alarming num¬bers, she’s worried about using the word “wingman.” Using that word does send a message — it just happens to be a message I agree with, since it has a mar¬tial history and invokes combat. As for the tone it sets, I believe the attempt was to try to inject some martial vocab¬ulary back in to a service that has been treated like a corporation for the past 15 years, at least.

I retired from active duty in 2006 with about 3,500 flying hours in bombers —B-52s and B-2s. I flew in combat in Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. Between 1991 and 2006, I saw a sea change in the priorities of the bureau¬cratic end of the Air Force. Many peo¬ple, men and women, were much more worried about being politically correct and inoffensive than about destroying the enemies of the U.S. and safeguard¬ing our interests.

”Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do” aren’t bad values — however, they could just as easily be the guiding principles of a major corporation.

I believe the Air Force needs more martial language and attitude, not less. And that doesn’t mean we can’t have women in the Air Force as war¬riors. I’ve flown with some fine female pilots, but they aren’t shrinking violets or gender feminists who worry about being a “wingman.” In fact, every time they fly they’re a wingman, or a flight lead.

I’m on the side that definitely thinks the “Bring Me Men” arch needs to come back, and it never should have left in the first place (and I’m not an academy grad). This is a fight that my side better win, or we won’t have an Air Force to fight with — the pilot slots will have been reassigned to academics who want to discuss the offensiveness of the male culture while the jets rust on the ramp.

My thanks to AFJ for a great publica¬tion that I enjoy reading, and (believe it or not), my thanks to Lt. Col. Disler for an article she obviously feels strongly about and took the time to compose. I do believe we’re all on the same team — we just disagree which direction to run the ball in, if you will forgive me a male sports metaphor.

Maj. Kent Beck (ret.), Air Force

Knob Noster, Mo.