I was in the Air Force for just under 15 years. I served well, and I served with pride for my nation. As time went on I got tired of being in the
same conflict in the Middle East year after year. Early on, my patriotism soured high as I felt like I was doing my part. As my eyes opened through
time and perspective, I started to realize I was just one microchip in a super computer owned by the military industrial complex.
I could have lived with just that. My job wasn’t to kill people, I was saving lives. Literally, as a flight nurse. So my moral compass was on
track with that. Flying our nations best out of combat zones and into safety was both a privilege and a thrill. My career was constantly ascending
into great places. I was always promoted ahead of my peers. I have more awards and medals than I remember. It was good.
Several things factored into my decision to step away from what was a successful career. My body was breaking. When you’re on the the back of a
C-130 and a fresh out of flight school pilot who’s still wet behind the ears slaps the bottom of the aircraft on the flight line...you feel it and
it takes it’s toll. Training missions....fun for everyone.
My back, neck, feet and knees are in constant pain. But I could have kept trudging through that. An MRI incidentally found evidence of a stroke. I
never remember having a stroke....but they found it and they weren’t going to let me be aircrew anymore. So it was back to a desk for me to finish
out the years till I got my retirement benefits. I could have lived with that.
I wasn’t ever able to secure a family life while serving because I was constantly on the go. TDY after TDY. The Air Forces core values are
“integrity first”, “service before self” and “excellence in all we do”. I took that to heart and always put my service before myself. To
a flaw, as I look back on it. I missed so much life because of it. But I could have made peace with that for just a few more years.
What pushed me over the edge and gave me a permanent case of social anxiety was what happened at my last assignment. I won’t get into the
specifics, but it was at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, OH. We were tasked to set up a brand new, multi-million dollar, state of the art training
unit. All from scratch. It was the best team of people I ever worked with...for the most part.
The leadership was backwards and upside down. We didn’t actually report to anyone on the base, or even in the state of Ohio. We were detached from
our HQ’s. That caused some major problems in our ability to execute the mission. We couldn’t get our supplies and equipment in a timely manner.
Which is when our integrity went head on with the excellence in all we do. This one on one battle smashed my moral values into pieces.
Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal....that’s the biggest advice my dad ever taught me. Live by those standards and you can always look at
yourself in the mirror. I teach that to my son so...full circle and all. But I was directly tasked with cheating, lying, and stealing by my
superiors. Multiple times. And it broke me completely.
Because we couldn’t get our medical supplies and equipment, we couldn’t run our training missions. If we didn’t run our training by missions,
than 34 squadrons across the active duty, guard and reserves would be without sufficiently trained Airman. Without that....it becomes a major domino
effect. But my leadership were cowards. Rather than fight with their leadership at HQ’s, they encouraged those of us in the trenches to loot and
pillage through supplies and equipment of another schoolhouse who had a similar program as ours. Guess who was in charge of supplies and equipment?
My flight superintendent would always butter me up with coffee, or breakfast. Walk me around to where the things were that we needed, and find a way
to convince me it was ok if we borrowed it without asking. I knew what she was doing. I told her several times I wouldn’t do it. But the pressure
kept mounting. They had leverage over me in terms of my evaluations and future promotions or assignments. And they used it. Then they stashed me in
a corner cubicle away from everyone else. It was about 4 feet wide by 5 feet long. And it had a support beam which cut the space in half.
I’d watch as she would get other people to do her dirty work for her. And they found ways to mark me down on my feedback, deny me leadership
opportunities, TDY opportunities, etc. I got depressed. They successfully turned me into a ghost all because I wouldn’t break my ethical values,
the ones my dad and the Air Force itself gave me. So eventually I caved. I started to lie, cheat and steal our way into my leaderships hearts. I
was becoming a “team member”. We got away with it. Except...
A buddy of mine from the other training program who’s supplies and equipment we were stealing from...he got into SERIOUS trouble.
His leadership ran an audit and found hundreds of thousands of dollars of missing items that he was responsible for. He took the fall. And I was
crushed. I confronted my leadership and demanded we come clean. Magically, I started winning awards, hit high marks on my evaluation, and was
promoted. All while I was trying to get my superintendent to walk down to the other side of the building and admit our wrong doing.
At one point I had a meeting with all of our senior leadership. They were all against me and tried to explain it as mission first, service before
self, and “I had to understand the position we were in”. “Look at the bigger picture”.
I went to the inspector general, as I told them I would, to file an official complaint. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t make this right.
I gave them everything I could. Emails, texts, inventories...more than enough to convict in a court of law. All I got back was “we found no
evidence of wrong doing, and we recommend you work this out with your leadership”. I was devastated.
Shortly after I was called into my CC’s office and told I was being given an article 15 for violation of the UCMJ. I’ve forgotten exactly what
they were writing me up on, but essentially failure to follow orders is what it boiled down too. Naturally...I tried to disrupt the order of the
things with my irrational “morals”. At that point, I was done. I could no longer serve my country...whether they were going to let me or not.
After talking with a friend of mine who worked at the JAG, I requested a reduction in rank as my settlement. This would give me a way out of the
service in one years time from when this took place. I would get an honorable discharge, and full veteran entitlements. Including a $72,000
“severance” package. My disability benefits would be my pension but ultimately, I wouldn’t have to ride a desk and live in the shadows of the
moral and ethical violations I was forced into. I would be a free man.
All fell into play accordingly. I have zero regrets. I did my service for this country. But I will forever warn future enlístees to never break
their moral compass for anyone. It’s not worth the stress and anxiety that comes with it.
Anyway....that’s my contribution to ATS for the day. I’ve only ever told my wife the full spectrum of it. Not out of shame or guilt. More out of
disappointment toward the Air Force leadership I trusted.
edit on 26-3-2021 by Assassin82 because: Grammar and spelling