Take care of your people, live the organization’s core values, get relieved of command.

Unless there’s a heck of a lot more to this story, this looks like a pretty egregious case of career destruction by a petty, vindictive superior.

Lt. Col. Craig Perry and his wife, Caroline, involved themselves in the personal lives of airmen and families at their new command, a leadership approach encouraged from the top down to help identify those in need.

A month after Perry took the helm of a support squadron sustaining basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in July, Caroline revived the languishing Key Spouse Program to reach out to families in her husband’s unit. She delivered baby gifts to first-time parents, cooked lunches for flight members and welcomed an airman alone during the holidays into their home.

But what the Perrys considered acts of kindness expected of commanders, investigators called favoritism and fraternization.

A January command-directed investigation report obtained by Air Force Times concluded Perry engaged in unprofessional relationships with enlisted members in his organization. He was relieved of command of the 737th Training Support Squadron on March 27 and issued a letter of reprimand.

Obviously, we’re only getting one side of the story here. And there are some issues that might raise concerns, particularly with regard to the removal of negative information  from subordinates files:

The report also said Perry may have been playing favorites when he removed a letter of reprimand from the file of his superintendent who had failed to forward reports of MTI misconduct to her former commander.

Perry and several other squadron members interviewed as part of the investigation said they’d received conflicting guidance on how to handle negative information in personnel files.

Parry believed he was allowed to pull the LOR at the time because its contents had already been documented in the superintendent’s enlisted performance report and was unrelated to maltraining, maltreatment or sexual misconduct, he told the investigator.

The report indicates squadron commanders had been authorized to remove the documents from the files of subordinates, even though it violated 2nd Air Force policy. At least three other squadron commanders said they’d pulled similar paperwork from files.

“It is clear that there was confusing and/or conflicting guidance among the 737th Training Wing squadron commanders about whether or not derogatory information could be removed,” the investigator found. Whether at the command level or wing level, the Air Force needed to clear it up.

While commanders are required to treat all personnel with equanimity, the fact remains that commanders are also expected to exercise judgment, such as whether a LOR should remain in one NCO’s file, and not another. Making a judgment that one NCO has a better potential for future service over another isn’t favoritism. It’s professionalism.

And the cognitive dissonance going through the ranks, just as the Air Force is pressuring its commanders to embrace “intrusive leadership” is making my head hurt.

The Army has recently been obsessed with toxic leadership. Apparently the Air Force intends to embrace that as the only acceptable course. 

Who should replace Shinseki at the VA, and the need for other reforms.

I’d love to see retired Marine General Jim Mattis take charge of the VA. I think a good part of Shinseki’s failure was that he set metrics, but failed to supervise to ensure that they were really being met. I suspect Mattis wouldn’t fall quite so easily for such a snow job from underlings.

But I’m not adamant that the head of the VA needs to be a retired general or flag officer. I’m not even sure that’s the best pool to choose from. As others have noted, one guy with great talent at turning around failing organizations is… Mitt Romney. I’d greatly prefer the head of the VA be a veteran, and more importantly, I’d really like to see someone with experience in medical administration. But I’m surely open to your suggestions.

But simply finding the “right guy” to lead the VA is simply not enough. As Jillian Kay Melchior shows us, there are literally hundreds of people at the VA, paid by the taxpayer, to perform union work full time, or part time.

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid at least $11.4 million to 174 nurses, mental-health specialists, therapists, and other health-care professionals who, instead of caring for veterans, worked full-time doing union business.

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In total, the VA spent at least $13.77 million on 251 salaried employees performing full-time union work. Others, who were not included on the list provided by the VA, work part-time for unions at the taxpayer expense. In fiscal year 2011, the latest on record, the VA used 998,483 hours of this “official time,” costing taxpayers more than $42 million.

The concept of unionized federal workers is repugnant enough. That those same unions are then supported at the expense of taxpayers is vile. And that civil servants, hired for their skills and qualifications as health care providers, then spend their time on union business is simply revolting.

And it isn’t simply the union employees that are problematic. Even had Eric Shinseki known his subordinates throughout the VA were systematically cooking the books, or otherwise failing to put forth their best effort to provide the very services they were hired to provide, he couldn’t have fired them, except in the most extraordinary circumstances.

Not just in the VA, but throughout the entire government, the civil service is in desperate need of overhaul.  The elimination of the spoils system to the civil service system of today has produced a fourth branch of government, a self serving bureaucracy that, while generally aligned with the Democratic party of big government, seeks above all else to further its own interests.

It used to be that one worked for the government with the understanding that pay would be lower, in exchange for greater job security. This has metastasized to the point that the government employee’s pay is typically a third greater than the private sector, and virtually no crime short of murder will lead to dismissal.

We’ve certainly strayed from Lincoln’s ideal of government of, by, and for the people. And unless and until we address that, whoever replaces Shinseki at the VA will be faced with an impossible task. 

Bowe Bergdahl released by Taliban, GITMO prisoner exchange

It’s all over the news that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only US servicemember held POW by the Taliban, has been released.

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was handed over to U.S. special forces by the Taliban Saturday evening, local time, in an area of eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. Officials said the exchange was not violent and the 28-year-old Bergdahl was in good condition and able to walk.

In a statement, President Barack Obama said Bergdahl’s recovery “is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield.”

In exchange, the US will transfer five detainees currently in GITMO to Qatar. No other details of who is being transferred were immediately available. Their future after reaching Qatar is unclear as well.

Ordinarily I’d say the return of a US serviceman to us is a good thing. And I’m not even terribly upset by the release of GITMO detainees, depending on just who they are. Negotiating with terrorists is bad policy, but on the other hand, throughout warfare there is a history of prisoner exchanges.

But Bergdahl wasn’t captured in battle. He simply walked off his post into the hills. Grunt forums are livid with Bergdahl, ready for him to be tried for desertion. Many, many lives were risked in the hunt for Bergdahl. Would you want to do for someone who betrayed and abandoned his brothers in arms?

I’m conflicted. You never leave a man behind. Not even a deserter. But if he did walk off, I’ve no problem with putting against the wall.

This Mother's Grief Will Make You Smile

War changes the lives of everyone. Whether the soldiers themselves, their communities, or the families. And no change, no hurt, is greater than than the loss of a loved one in the service of their country. It’s up to us as beneficiaries of their sacrifice, to take care of those they leave behind. To help make that “change” in their lives as easy as possible.

One woman who lost her own son to war did just that. And it’s amazing.

via This Mother’s Grief Will Make You Smile.

It got a bit dusty in here all of a sudden.

Jordan to unveil new AC-235 Gunship at SOFEX next week | Defense Update:

ATK and the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) have delivered the first modified CN-235 light gunship aircraft to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The completed aircraft re-designated AC-235 will be unveiled at the 10th Special Operations Conference and Exhibition (SOFEX) exhibition taking place in in Amman, Jordan next week.

ATK has equipped the aircraft with an electro-optical targeting systems, a laser designator, aircraft self-protection equipment, and an armaments capability that includes Hellfire laser-guided missiles, 2.75-inch rockets, and a M230 link-fed 30mm chain gun. ATK’s M230 family of guns serves on the Apache helicopter.

The AC-235 will be fitted to carry Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser guided rockets; on that accord, the, U.S. Navy has signed an agreement with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on April 14. The initial Foreign Military Sale (FMS) includes procurement of the weapons as well as logistics and engineering support for integration on the Jordanian CN-235 gunship. The Navy and industry partner BAE Systems plan to deliver APKWS to the Jordanian Kingdom in 2016.

via Jordan to unveil new AC-235 Gunship at SOFEX next week | Defense Update:.

I’m a little surprised to see this in Jordan, but given the possibility of Syria’s nastly little war spilling over borders, it makes some sense. I think we’ll see this approach taken by other nations soon as well.

Rare sale of 200 WWII-era military vehicles offers tanks for the memories | Motoramic – Yahoo Autos

Jacques Mequet Littlefied did not live an exceptionally long life, dying of cancer in 2009 at age 59. But the independently wealthy San Francisco Bay Area collector did live a wonderfully eclectic life, amassing over some four decades one of the world’s biggest collections of rolling armor. Yup, tanks. And a few other related things, including SCUD missiles, amphibious personnel carriers and anti-tank guns.

It is safe to say that not outside of an actual war is one likely to find anything quite like The Littlefield Collection, 280 largely restored relics from a range of armed conflicts. While 80 of Littlefield’s prized items are destined for The Collings Foundation in Stow, Mass., a museum dedicated to the preservation of such fare, 200 lots go under Auctions America’s hammer July 11-12 at Littlefield’s former home-cum-museum in Portola Valley, Calif., just south of San Francisco.

via Rare sale of 200 WWII-era military vehicles offers tanks for the memories | Motoramic – Yahoo Autos.

So… who wants to go in on a tank?

Leaders Go Hungry: 10 Leadership Habits Developed in Uniform | Team Rubicon

If two privates are walking side-by-side, one takes the lead. Military leadership starts the day you take your oath. Below are ten habits developed within months, or even days, of putting on a uniform. These qualities are constantly refined through stress, responsibility, and austere environments; extreme experiences that test and develop military leaders, making these powerful, long-lasting habits. On a Team Rubicon operation you’ll see these qualities reflected in strike team leaders all the way to the Incident Commander.

via Leaders Go Hungry: 10 Leadership Habits Developed in Uniform | Team Rubicon.

Click through to read the list. It’s not the full field manual on leadership, but you surely won’t go wrong following this list.

The VA Office of Inspector General Interim Report

[scribd id=227135338 key=key-X8XTUWNpI1wrERkhZ6z3 mode=scroll]

For you non-service types out there, let me share one of my pet (minor) peeves with how the VA is operated.

You aren’t automatically enrolled in the VA health care system when you leave the service. You have to apply to join the system. And it is a hassle. Why can’t enrollment be automatic?