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. 

7 thoughts on “Take care of your people, live the organization’s core values, get relieved of command.”

  1. This disturbs me greatly. My Air Force has degenerated nearly past the point of no return. This, in my view, is an epic failure of Lt Col Perry’s superior. Lt Col Perry sounds like a guy I would have loved to serve with.

  2. I agree with Old AF Sarge. This is not the USAF that my father or I serve in. I think that the main problem lies in the stars.


  3. Seems like the USAF and USN don’t really provide the same leader development opportunities for them until they reach LTC or CDR. I learned pretty quickly how to behave as a PL and XO, but only Army and USMC really make almost all O3s be a commander. You can be a shop officer or whatever all you want, but you miss some development if you are not the man with “Commanding” in your signature block until O5. I am going to say that, even though he sounds like he is doing good stuff, at least in the Army, one vindictive Cdr isn’t going to be able to remove an O5 level CDR this easily unless there is something there. I’d like to hear the rest of the story.

    1. That lack of command at lower levels is something I hear about a lot, especially in the Air Force. Navy officers are expected to serve as DivOs and Department Heads, which, if not command, are at least hands on supervisory positions. I’ve heard quite a few AF officers, especially pilots, are not expected to do much in the way of troop leadership outside the most technical aspects of their jobs. While letting NCOs do NCO business is critical, having officers lead is the whole point of officership. And as you note, that’s not a skill you suddenly gain with silver oak leaves.

    2. I would like to hear the rest of the story as well, assuming there is a “rest of the story.” The USAF has been going down the drain for a very long time. My father got out during the toxic late Vietnam era. He kicked himself 4 months later, but asked if conditions were any different then than when he retired. After he said no, he never mentioned it again.

      As they did for the Army, conditions continued to go down hill until Reagan. After Bush I, things began sliding again as USAF took to Slick Willies social engineering schemes like a duck to water. There has simply been little discernment among USAF “leaders” for a long time, and it looks as though the rot as well and truly set in.

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