Air Force MSgt. Mandy Mueller, 39th Medical Operations Squadron medical services flight chief, reads a holiday letter on Dec. 11, 2019, at Incirlik AB, Turkey. SSgt. Joshua Magbanua
Photo Caption & Credits


Nov. 5, 2021

We love letters! Write to us at To be published, letters should be timely, relevant and concise. Include your name and location. Letters may be edited for space and the editors have final say on which are published.

It’s Electric

I totally endorse electricity survivability in an age of severe weather incidents, cyber attacks, and other potential attacks [“Let There Be Light,” September, p. 58]. I’m not sure that solar panels are the most cost-effective or reliable back-up source. Solar panels don’t work at night. My father always used to say, “utilize your resources.” What resources could be used at a USAF base to match the 28 megawatt solar array at Vandenberg Air Force Base, [Calif.]? 

First, let me convert the power of the solar array from 28 megawatts to 28,000 kilowatts. Let me also note that 1 horsepower is approximately 0.75 kw. Let me illustrate with three different types of engines how many of these engines would be required to match the solar array. The three engines for illustration: 84 horsepower (60 kw) Chevy Volt engine, the 4,300 horsepower of one C-130 engine, and the 40,000 lbs of thrust for one C-17 engine. The 84 horsepower (64 kw) Chevy Volt engine is designed to drive a 55 kw generator. Thus it would take 28,000/55 = 509 such engines to be the equivalent of the 28 megawatt solar array. A single C-130 engine is 4,300 horsepower or about 3,200 kw.

Assuming a connection could be made to a generator which was as efficient as the Chevy Volt, this would be equivalent to a generator of 2,900 kw or 28,000/2,900 = 10 such engines would be the equivalent of the solar array. A single C-17 engine of 40,000 lbs thrust is not a straightforward conversion, but let me assume that it is the equivalent of 40,000 horsepower or 30,000 kw. 

Thus, a single C-17 engine would be the equivalent of a 28,000 kw solar array. The Chevy Volt was designed for a engine-to-generator connection. There is no design for a C-130 engine to be connected to a generator, but this shouldn’t be a difficult design task. The same type of design to connect a C-17 engine to a generator would be more challenging, but all natural gas power plants are simply turbines supplied with natural gas. 

The Air Force should consider solar power, wind power, and also the power of its many engines at its bases as a source of emergency power. What’s missing at the present are designs to harness these engines to generators to produce emergency electricity. How much fuel is stored at each Air Force base? I think there would be plenty to keep 10 C-130 engines running for many weeks or a C-17 running for many weeks. In fact, a few Air Force engines combined with appropriately designed generators and trained Air Force personnel could aid U.S. communities in the event of a power outage.

William Thayer
San Diego

The End in Afghanistan

Surely the generals did not advise [President Joe] Biden to hand over (secretly from our allies, in the middle of the night) a secure, defendable, two-runway base in favor of a single runway civilian airport overrun with people (including our enemy) in an urban area and surrounded by hills [“World: Afghanistan’s Saigon Moment,” September, p. 26]. 

At Bagram, you would have moved the perimeter out past a “no-go zone” and had the screening done by two troops each at checkpoints—well covered by firepower—rather than bunched in with the crowd as easy targets as mass bomb casualties. We heard a lot of talk about moving the perimeter out at the airport but it was impossible at a civilian airport in a city. 

No platoon leader or above would have recommended this to Biden, but he now accuses the generals of doing just that. A more likely scenario is that Biden ordered them to bring the troops down to, lets say, 600 and protect the embassy as a priority. That choice was an order by Biden to abandon Bagram —indeed, to surrender. If so, the generals should retire and go public. 

If they somehow DID advise this, they should resign in shame, with no retirement, or worse. It’s back to the dereliction of duty of the Vietnam days.

David Skilling 
Marietta, Ga.

I was stunned by the wording on the September cover. Stunned because of how quickly the page had turned, with Americans left behind, friends left behind, and military equipped left behind.

Perhaps another title which wasn’t so callous would have been in order.

Col. John Hill,
USAF (Ret.)
St. Paul, Minn.

I was totally amazed to watch American civilian noncombatants, Afghan refugees, and other evacuees allowed to board U.S. Air Force aircraft during the recent mass evacuation from Afghanistan. I did not see the complete evacuation process on the ground so I am writing in relative ignorance. Regardless, I was pleasantly surprised that nothing was reported which drastically could have happened in the air or on the ground. 

As a former majcom intelligence representative for antiterrorism/force protection (AT/FP) plans and policy development during the 1990s and 2000s, I was aware of lessons learned from other similar evacuations. Most importantly, I did not see on videos of the Afghanistan evacuation where any processing and inspection of evacuees and their personal belongings were done. 

Most critical in the Middle East are the vast differences in religions, sects, and beliefs which have been the cause of hundreds of years of strife and war among clans, tribes, and political entities. Mixing such people in a single aircraft is dangerous enough to cause physical disruptions. However, by not inspecting baggage, personal armaments, weapons and even explosives could have been carried onto aircraft and could have caused some catastrophic events.  

Besides guns and other weapons, other contrabands could have been carried on and off the U.S. aircraft. Evacuation operations of unvetted people should always include screening of baggage and personnel to ensure passenger, aircraft, and crew safety. Time may be of [the] essence in such operations; therefore, in such cases uninspected baggage could just be left behind. In the future, videos should also cover such inspections to possibly deter potential weapon carry-ons and assure safe and successful execution of noncombatant evacuation and AT/FP operations. 

Lt. Col. Russel A. Noguchi,
USAF (Ret.)
Pearl City, Hawaii

At the risk of being accused of piling on, I’d like to share thoughts on Gen. Mark A. Milley’s recent performance as a senior military officer and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

My taste began to sour in the aftermath of his memorable walk in the park with the then CINC. I was shocked to hear him one morning being interviewed on liberal-leaning National Public Radio. This was just a day or so after the controversial Lafayette Square event.

It definitely wasn’t a “stand by your man” moment. Clearly, he was not on the same page with the very CINC that had appointed him.  Milley chose victimhood, rather unbecoming for a senior military officer.  He was all about apologizing for his participation and in general (no pun intended) whining about it. Milley felt America needed to know. 

More recently, his congressional testimony over our failed Afghanistan exodus only reinforced my view. During testimony Milley stated that he does his best to appear apolitical as he sat on the hot seat as a starring actor in political theater. During testimony he confirmed that he’d been interviewed for the recently released Bob Woodward-Robert Costa book covering the end of the Trump presidency and had made the disappointing statements attributed to him. Additionally, he shared that he’d been interviewed for other books of the like that have yet to be released.    

Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, “Old generals never die, they just fade away.”  In Milley’s case, don’t expect a fade away any time soon. A lucrative book deal could be on his bucket list, leveraging his recent mainstream media fame. Perhaps a post-retirement plum job, a la Fox News’ Gen. Jack Keane, as senior strategic analyst?  What liberal cable news channel will make him a generous offer?

So much for apolitical. Sadly, somewhere along the way Milley seems to have forgotten that he’s a Soldier first and not a media personality.

Col. Bill Malec, 
USAF (Ret.)
O’Fallon, Ill.

Ask the Ground Troops

I was appalled at the ignorance of the A-10 and its missions exhibited by Gen. Mark D. Kelly, commander, Air Combat Command. [“World: Kelly: Downed Airmen Will Have Few Rescue Options in the Pacific,” September, p. 32]. The A-10 is not a “single-mission, 210-knot airplane(s)” as he expressed in the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Life Cycle Industry Days streaming seminar on Aug. 3. Although the A-10 is getting long in the tooth, this mischaracterization of the aircraft and its missions is beyond belief for a major command commander.

The A-10 has performed yeoman duties in numerous conflicts. It is not a 210-knot aircraft, but uses mission profile around 300 knots. It performs missions of close air support, combat search and rescue, armed airborne escort (C-130 paratrooper drop), battlefield interdiction, and has been the Swiss Army knife of the Air Force for 40 years. It is the only Air Force fighter aircraft that can perform its missions from unprepared airfields.

The A-10 needs to be retired, there is no question about that. Unless the Air Force is willing to abrogate their responsibility to provide air support for our troops in contact with an enemy, the Air Force needs to begin the process of replacing the A-10 with an aircraft that can adequately fulfill its various missions.

The Air Force has touted the F-35 as a replacement for the A-10. I seriously doubt that mission planners will dedicate an expensive and fragile aircraft such as the F-35 into the knife-fight that is endemic to the A-10s missions. The F-35 may fit the dream of the Air Staff of sterile combat where expensive precision weapons are used against our foes in contact with our troops. But experience has shown that the opposite is true. [Precision-guided munitions] are not a panacea for eyes on the target. Drones are not infallible. The psychological effect of an armed and capable air support aircraft in the weeds facing an enemy cannot be accomplished from 15,000 feet and 10 miles away. Ask any Soldier or Marine on the ground their preference for air support. No aircraft brings fear into the enemy as the A-10 does. It’s replacement need to be as formidable.

General Kelly’s statement is disingenuous and is insulting to the men and women who have placed themselves on the leading edge of combating our foes. The missions of the A-10 are not going to magically disappear in the face of technology. The mission knowledge and training must be preserved, or we are doomed to repeat the errors of Vietnam where we sent our under-trained Airmen into battle in inappropriate aircraft. We don’t need to haul A-10s out of storage like we did with A-1s to fight a battle for which we are ill-equipped. Someone needs to brief General Kelly to get his facts straight before he places his foot in his mouth.

Maj. Tim Roth, 
USAF (Ret.)
Cobbs Creek, Va.

I am impressed by the clairvoyance of General Kelly. He obviously knows there won’t be a need for such a platform against enemies such as ISIS, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or any other so-called “low-intensity conflicts.”

Nearly 10 years ago it was reported in this magazine that generals concluded the A-10 was not necessary, as fast movers such as the F-16 and F-15 could perform the close air support role better.

I wondered then, as now, did anyone bother the ask the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, on the ground doing the fighting?

MSgt. William J. Lee,
USAF (Ret.)
Elkton, Mich.

China, China, China

The Taiwanese have invested most of their offshore capital into mainland China and, hence, shifted the balance of power in favor of China vis-à-vis the United States. Enriched by Taiwanese investment, Beijing can more easily afford the development of weapons that will cripple American forces in the Pacific [See “World: China, China, China,” October, p. 18].

If the Taiwanese had, instead, invested its capital into Vietnam, then they would have shifted the balance of power in favor of the United States. Enriched by Taiwanese investment, Hanoi could more easily afford to project its military power into the South China Sea, thus reducing the need for American forces to counter the Chinese military in that region. (Vietnam and the United States are implicit allies.)

The Taiwanese investors opted for China over Vietnam in order to maximize their profits. Beijing gave, to the Taiwanese, economic incentives (like reduced taxes and accelerated approval of business projects) that Hanoi would not give.

Simultaneously, the Taiwanese claim that China terrifies them and, hence, that they need military protection from the United States. In other words, the Taiwanese are playing us Americans for a bunch of fools. We must not sacrifice a drop of American blood or treasure on protecting Taiwanese opportunists.  They should pay the full cost of their profit-maximizing strategy in China.

Dwight Sunada, Ph.D.
Stanford, Calif.