08 November 2017


By Andy Weddington
Wednesday, 08 November 2017

Unless you can point the finger at the man responsible when something goes wrong then you never had anyone really responsible. Hyman George Rickover

Not often do I write and publish multiple commentary on the same day; much less on the same topic.

Early this morning was posted follow-on commentary about an alleged racist incident at the U. S. Air Force Academy little more than a month ago.

Since, a long walk in the cold, a cup of coffee with friends, and more walking and thinking about the matter. 

And so a saved round, as we say in the Marine Corps.

Yesterday evening on the news I watched a segment where Bret Baier of (Fox News Channel), traveling with the President, interviewed Admiral Harry Harris, U. S. Navy (Pacific Command commander) about his AOR (Area of Responsibility). 

Seeing Admiral Harris, whom I met at a retirement a few years ago aboard Naval Air Station North Island (though he'd not remember), reminded me of a letter he had months earlier sent a newly selected admiral I know. 

His a classy congratulatory letter complemented with advice.

I read it three or four times. 

The advice struck a powerful chord.

He wrote that a flag officer should use the word "I" but on two occasions ...

1. "I was wrong."
2. "I thank you."

And he went on to briefly explain why - which is not difficult to presume nor understand; when considering subordinates work long and hard to please the admiral. 

But those pieces of leadership can be challenging to practice. They require much - calm and deliberateness certainly. 

In context to the Air Force Academy situation ...

Stunning it was this morning to learn the superintendent penned an email yesterday essentially justifying his initial emotional knee-jerk reaction - a tough, accusatory in tone lecture - to the staff, faculty, and cadets about the alleged racism, and intolerance of same.


If only, having wrongly first accused so many of an unacceptable cultural breach, he had taken a deep breath and considered the wisdom (or variant thereof) of Admiral Harris. 

First, clearly the general does not have a rooted appreciation for the caliber - our best - of citizen screened and eventually awarded an appointment to the Air Force Academy (any service academy). 

For with that standard would not the logical assumption be, just maybe, the targeted did the deed? 

Which the investigation proved.

Never mind in America we presume and practice innocence until guilt proved.

So ...

Instead of justifying his action, Lieutenant General Jay Silveria might have exercised some humility and (expected) basic flag-level leadership.

Consider the impact had he opened his email with, "I was wrong." 

Then offered a profuse apology to his staff, faculty, and cadets. 

And closed with, "I thank you." 

But what's done is done. A leadership disaster and textbook example absolutely. 

How he, the man responsible thus earning the pointed finger, has any credibility and further value at the Academy (or continued active service) is beyond this ever-aging Marine colonel.

"I thank you," Admiral Harris.  


Tom Hickinbotham said...

There is, as you later stated, yet a third occasion for using "I":
Offering a profuse apology, as in, "I am sorry."
Absent any semblance of humility and an acceptance of responsibility from LtGen. Silveria , the Air Force Chief of Staff should be stepping in and "recommending" his immediate retirement.

Jim said...

Hi Tom, long time no see. Just a thought from an aging Grunt. The days of having hard line, respected (both ways) generals in the Air Force has been long past. Of late, and I mean not close late, USAF generals have drank so much Kool Aid it's stained their color, no longer Blue. Such a shame, they truly have become USAF Airlines. Tis a shame. I have lots of Air Force friends, and to the man, they all agree, in fact, it is they who enlightened me to this lack of leadership among their flags, and they doubt the up and coming LtCol's and Col's are no better. What a fool to have prejudged and decided everyone was at fault. I like the three "I's," will use that with my Young Marines.