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


Dec. 3, 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.

What a Waste

Every time I read an article on the KC-46, like today, it just pisses me off more and more [“World: KC-46, F-35 Provide Lessons for Future Testing,” November, p. 22].  All the wasted time, all the wasted money, reduced readiness, all because the armchair generals somewhere decided they knew better than the boomers who actually do the work and ignored their advice and requests when engineering the new tanker. We want, we need, they told the engineers, a direct view, eyes on the plane, refueling station. And what did they give them instead? I’m sad to say it is so typical these days.

MSgt. Kenneth Selking,
USAF (Ret.)
Decatur, Ind.

Gates’ Failure

With great interest I read Tobias Naegele’s editorial in the October edition of Air Force Magazine [“China, Trust, and Politics, p. 2].  Finally, it was publicly said what I’ve been saying for a few years now, that Secretary of Defense [Robert] Gates got it all wrong when he canceled the F-22 program at 187 airplanes. I was a contractor in the F-22 SPO at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio when our production was cut off. 

Listening to his reasons for doing so baffled me and many others. As Naegele said, “Gates saw the Raptor as ‘exquisite’ and superfluous to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” That thinking is just the opposite of what we were taught in our war colleges. You do not plan the next war based on the current one. How could he not see what was, and is, going on in China and Russia?  After I retired a second time, I bought Gates’ book just to see if I had missed something, and after a thorough read, it was clear the mistake was all his.

Col. Frank Alfter,
USAF (Ret.)
Beavercreek, Ohio

In my 26-plus years in the Air Force, I was primarily concerned with short-term operations; the next day’s missions, getting ready to fly, or making sure our aircraft were mission ready. That is, except for a tour at the Pentagon, and even then it was only a five-year look ahead. So I was intrigued by what I have been seeing, hearing, and reading about concerning the threat to the United States. I believe, as you state, “once trust is broken confidence is lost.” I believe that not only as a reaction to our “cut and run” in Afghanistan, but to actions, just to name a few, such as dropping sanctions against Iran, breaking trust with France (nuclear submarine deal), … I could go on and on. These are all things that the world sees in their eyes as a weakening America. The government itself has issued contradictive statements as to our involvement as to the defense of Taiwan. How does that make South Korea feel? Trust?

What does Russia see from this? How does that make China see us? For that matter, even the Iranians and Taliban see our weakness. China has had a meteoric rise in both weapons systems and associated technology.  

We have wasted the time we had to match the rise in the Chinese influence and war power. Who is responsible for that? Is it the population, the politicians, or the “warfighters?” My guess is that it is a mix of the last two. There seems to be an effort to increase the awareness of our position, as conducted through groups such as the Mitchell Institute, but what other actions within our government are being conducted to correct some of the “bad judgment.” It may have begun with then SecDef Gates, but why hasn’t that error been corrected? Secretary [Frank] Kendall says, “We are out of time.” I barely can agree with the CSAF that “it is not impossible,” but it is going to take a lot more work than what is being done now to convince the politicians of the growing threat. We cannot wait!

Col. Mark W. Smith,
USAF (Ret.)
Chinook, Wash.

What a Day!

Air Force Magazine, you are marvelous in consistently relating to us the new and critical roles for our Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., most incidentally an African American. Additionally, the October issue of the magazine added into the picture the role of his wife to assist him in activities for the Defense Department’s Exceptional Family Member Program [“World: The Browns, and the Needs of Exceptional Families,” p. 33]. 

In September 195l, as a 15-year-old African American, I was accepted into the Air Force ROTC program at St. Louis University. I did not have the slightest conception of our Air Force Chief being an African American. Now, as an 86-year-old USAF retiree, I am thrilled that this, at last, has come about during my lifetime. 

Lt. Col. Walter R. Jacobs Jr., 
USAF (Ret.)

Wilderness Voice?

I was just reading through my November 2021 issue of Air Force Magazine.  As I read, it struck me (not for the first time) there seems to be an editorial bias in a lot of the writing and in the choice of some stories. Has the Air Force Association become the aeronautical arm of the Republican Party?

It’s somewhat subtle. In Tobias Naegele’s “Editorial: The Bill Comes Due,” he refers, right in the beginning, to “wish-list social spending and how to tax wealthy individuals and corporations to pay for it all.” In John Tirpak’s “Gen. Colin Powell Dies at 84” there is a subtle tone of criticism hidden in the obituary. Those are two examples, but the bias seems to sneak through the entire issue.

I have been a part of AFA since I was an AFROTC Cadet and Arnold Air Society member (way in the distant past!).  I’m quite fiercely independent of any political party.  In the past I have voted both Republican and Democrat, deciding based on who I thought would do the best job for the country. I strongly oppose holding for one party no matter what.

I thought the mission of AFA was to support U.S. airpower and the issues that affect the U.S. Air Force? That should be a non-partisan mission, not one based on editorial party affiliation, shouldn’t it?  If the editors and AFA take sides, it can limit the effectiveness of the Association to carry out it’s primary mission. In case the editors haven’t noticed, ‘divide and conquer’ has not been working as well as cooperation and collaboration has in the past. If AFA’s mission is to succeed, we need to work with elected and appointed representatives without regard to what party they belong to.

Is AFA losing sight of its mission?

Of course, I’m just one person who grew up ‘cradle to grave’ Air Force. Biased editors will probably dismiss my comment as being uninformed and wrong-thinking.  Anyone who disagrees with our thinking must be wrong, correct?  On the other hand, one voice ‘in the wilderness’ may also have a valid point to ponder?

Lt. Col. Robert E. Thibault II,
USAF (Ret.)