Morale: Why Is That Air Force General So Sad?


April 30, 2007: The U.S. Air Force is having morale problems over the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The support troops sent to help out the army are eager to get involved, and, after a bit of agitation, got the brass to create a combat badge for those air force personnel who got involved with the ground fighting. Pilots have been much less involved in combat in Iraq than have these support troops. And that's why we have low morale among many senior air force generals. To make matters worse, the air force is being forced to pick up the extra expenses for sending their people to help the army out. Moreover, while the army takes it for granted that their troops will often be given a different, and more needed, job in Iraq, the air force generals don't like this sort of thing at all. The generals are concerned about the high costs of new aircraft, and the refusal of the army to reimburse the air force for the use of air force personnel. On top of that, the Department of Defense has transferred nearly a billion dollars of air force money to the army, to help pay for army operations in Iraq.

So far, over 20,000 air force personnel have been sent to help the army in jobs that the air force would not otherwise do. These range from EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) to running supply convoys, medical care and taking care of prisoners. About seven percent of the troops in Iraq are air force, and most of them are doing normal air force things (operating and maintaining combat aircraft). In Iraq, air force aircraft operate about three times more than they do while back in the United States. This puts a big burden on the maintenance and support people, although the pilots love it.

Some air force generals have also raised a stink by observing that, while the air force dominates the air, the army is having a much harder time of it on the ground. Army generals see this as another example of how disconnected the air force has become over the kind of war that is being fought. An air force is something only wealthy nations can afford, and for the last sixty years, the United States has not fought anyone wealthy enough to have a competitive air force. As a result, the U.S. Air Force has not had any real competition for several generations. But on the ground, there are a lot more players, and the fighting is a lot more intense. Many air force generals believe that ground combat would be a lot more successful if the army used more technology, and air force thinking. Ground combat commanders know, from experience, that technology has its limits, and that the air force tends to overlook that angle.

Despite the unhappy, and out-of-touch air force generals, many air force support troops have gotten a taste of ground operations, and know better what is actually happening on the ground. That knowledge may never penetrate to what the troops call, the "echelons beyond reason" (the brass), but the potential is now there.


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