Combat Proud

Phat’s story here was inspired because I asked him about one of GEN McPeak’s protégés.

Most people in the service don’t get a lot of face time with general officers. In the Army, as far as my day to day life went, it didn’t really matter who the two, three, and four star generals were in my chain of command. The Army is the Army, and it goes on as it always has. A general really has to work at it to make a genuine negative impression on the troops.

And one Air Force officer, McPeak’s protégé, did so. GEN Robert  H. (“Doc”)  Fogelsong was a career fighter pilot, eventually working his way up to four stars, and command of all US Air Force units in Europe, or USAFE.

Fogelsong had a reputation as a micromanager. Like, demanding to know the daily attendance at the base theater, or how many kids in the Child Development Center went to book readings.

The Air Force likes to give programs code names with two names. Cobra Judy, Pave Spike, Commando Solo… you get it?

Fogelsong, as USAFE, decided his units weren’t on the ball as much as they should be on the important things. No, not ability to fly, fight and win… the important things!

Combat Proud: Aims at improving base appearance to foster pride and productivity.

Combat Nighthawk: Links senior noncommissioned officers with junior officers on a night shift to act as the base commander’s eyes and ears, as well as help hone leadership skills.

Combat Education: Helps airmen pursue higher education by offering more flexible and innovative class schedules.

Combat Touch: Focuses on the spiritual needs and well-being of airmen and their families.

Combat Flightline: Helps enhance flying operations by making sure that the best personnel are in the right jobs.

Combat Intro/Exit: Streamlines base in-processing and out-processing.

Combat Fitness: Works to improve airmen’s physical fitness.

Combat Care: Improves care, resources, attention and information spouses and families receive while the military member is deployed.

Hidden Heroes: Encourages active-duty military members, Department of Defense civilians and family members to volunteer on base and in their communities.

Young men and women join the Air Force or other service with a great deal of idealism. They want to do an important job, and take pride in doing it well.

And, of course, the Air Force already had programs in place to address virtually all of these areas of concern. Ah… they didn’t have the cool “Combat….” code name for the program.

By far the least popular program was Combat Proud. Everyone wants to live and work on a nice installation. But Combat Pride was insulting to Airmen throughout Europe. Money was spent to build and paint cinder block walls to keep dumpsters out of sight behind buildings. Airmen were out raking leaves… in a forest!

Gussying up the most mundane chores of the service with a “Combat” nickname, and focusing on them at the expense of truly mission critical tasks, was the hallmark of the micromanager.

If a junior Airman cannot publicly disparage his theater commander by name, there is another way for him to express his displeasure.


If GEN Fogelsong really thought some part of an air base was failing to meet the standards of appearance, there was another, far more appropriate method of addressing shortcomings. USAFE has, as  a right hand man, a Chief Master Sergeant (a super E-9) as his principal advisor on enlisted matters. And that Chief should have gone to the Chief on an air base and remonstrated with him about the standards of appearance.

Toxic leadership is just that, toxic. More than a few good officers and men have simply walked away from a service they loved because one toxic senior leader made the game not worth the candle.

After his retirement from the Air Force, GEN Fogelsong was appointed president of Mississippi State University, where he promptly instituted a similar leadership paradigm.

MSU fired him about a year and a half later.

12 thoughts on “Combat Proud”

  1. Winston Churchill would have been outraged, his gripe was similar. He didn’t want any British soldiers, sailors or airmen dying (i paraphrase) in “Operation Daffodil or
    Plum Pudding” I suspect he would use names like that for base policing.

  2. Had a BN Commander like that in the Marine Corps. I didn’t get out of the Corps but I did get out of his BN. He retired as a LtGen. I just wonder what damage he did along the way

  3. My father retired from USAF in ’71 because there was too much trash like that going on. He was kicking himself 3 months later, but he and I had a talk about that and he quit kicking himself.

  4. Love the video. I don’t know anything about this guy, disagree with all of the “names” and never would institute anything like that in my organization(s), but to play devil’s advocate for a minute, I don’t disagree with the goals of any of the “combat xyz” programs, even if I would personally never institute several of them, and sure wouldn’t come up with hokey names. I have no idea how much he pursued them to the detriment of morale and/or Combat Readiness…. Pun intended. Do we know if there was an actual impact, positive or negative from any of these? Do we know if retention rates rose or fell? Do we know if family satisfaction with living conditions on base rose or fell? Were junior officers better developed? etc. I would also observe that his “demands” (not sure who’s word that is but it could entirely mischaracterize his actual request) for stats on usage of reading programs or theater attendance could have been made for the purpose of deciding to cut spending or reallocate funds out of an underutilized program. (Probably should be handled by the staff, but hey.) Nothing I say is in defence but rather to point out that there may be some good in some of what he was trying to achieve, while having gone about it in a flawed manner. Just my two Combat Cents.

  5. The joke in SAC was how they made us paint the rocks white alongside the roads leading to our radar sites in the wintertime and then then turn them over and paint them brown and green for the summer. Because make-work ,b>always helps with morale.

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