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


Jan. 21, 2022

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.

Words Have Meanings

I feel that the use of the term insurrection regarding Jan. 6 is inappropriate—I think you need to counsel the writer to use terms that allow it from becoming a term which is used to describe any protest which has a violent content. The term “insurrection” can be very divisive.

Does any protest that gets violent with authority qualify to be termed insurrection? 

David M. Richardson
Santa Maria, Calif.

Merriam-Webster defines “insurrection” as “an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government.” The Jan. 6 rioters stormed the Capitol in defiance of lawful civil authorities and successfully disrupted the business of the Congress, which on that day was the lawful certification of the Electoral College’s presidential election results. The rioters marched to the Capitol from a rally near the White House, organized in opposition to those results. While they failed to change the course of events, they most assuredly delayed and disrupted them. 

But reasonable people can disagree. One can call Jan. 6 an “insurrection” while another might choose “riot” or “mayhem” or some other word. One can do so without political motivation (or fear, for that matter), and one can choose one or another for variety’s sake. Those who write these early drafts of history are like umpires who “call ‘em as they see ‘em.” 

Even in an age of instant replays and calls overturned on appeal, some calls are likely to be debated for eternity.—the editors

Ad Astra

Almost 30 years ago, several successive Air University Space Chair officers attempted to describe and teach Air War College students about potential operations within the Earth-moon system. In the October issue, Amanda Miller describes this area as “Cislunar Space” [p. 46].

  Back in the day, we recognized the concepts of gravity wells and trajectories in addition to Earth orbits. We spend most of our lives at the bottom of the Earth gravity well (except for those who occasionally have slipped the surly bonds of Earth) where the force of gravity is a constant. Thirty years later we have a Space Force where these concepts have had time to become part of doctrine and eventual operational procedures.

   In June, the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate published a superb 23-page article, “A Primer on Cislunar Space.” This article describes the scale of this new domain as 1,700 times the size of conventional orbital space. It also points out how trajectories that exist between Earth orbit and the moon’s surface become the new descriptors of space operations. Finally, we need to develop passive sensor networks that operate through this huge area.

  I recommend  reading this excellent primer to enable anyone to understand how different cislunar space is from either the air or near-Earth domains. Ad Astra.

Col. Victor P. Budura Jr., 
USAF (Ret.)
New Market, Ala.

Not Lower, Smarter

I am curious how closely Col. Ken Smith looked at the “new” Air Force standards [“Letters: Lowering the Bar,” October, p. 4]?  Yes, there are changes, but the majority of those include adding five-year brackets vs. 10-year brackets and inclusion of additional components to provide Airmen a choice in how they demonstrate fitness. I have observed the testing of the new components and can assure you they provide no advantage over the previous standard components. Medical professionals including exercise physiologists work to determine the standards for optimal fitness while serving in the Air Force. 

We are not the Marine Corps or the Army. Our mission, standards, and requirements are different across the spectrum and attempting to compare our fitness tests is futile at best. Additionally, the Air Force recently added tiered testing for certain career fields that require different levels of fitness: special warfare Airmen, fire protection, and security forces to name a few. This ensures each Airmen is prepared to execute their mission, dependent on needs. 

Finally, his comment on women and “other alphabetic genders” and reference to “snowflakes” doesn’t make the Air Force laughable, it shows a lack of understanding of what our Air Force needs for today’s fight and the fights of tomorrow.

CMSgt. Katie McCool
Yokota AB, Japan

A Betrayal

Maybe I was too close for too long. Since August, I’ve struggled with my emotions toward the events in Afghanistan [See “Evacuating to Freedom,” November, p. 39]. What was once pride now swings between sadness, anger, betrayal, disbelief, loss, and emptiness to name a few. That’s why I was heartened to read the account given by Col. Colin McClasky, the Contingency Response Element (CRE) commander, as he recounted the efforts of his team at the Kabul International Airport in the November issue of Air Force Magazine. As I watched the evacuation, I could see the fingerprints of the CRE, directing the airlift and running the airfield. They, along with the aircrew, the 618th AOC, the Marines, Soldiers, and Sailors on the ground all served with honor as the defeat of America unfolded. We are blessed by their honor and are a better nation because of them.

But the honor stopped at the gates of the airfield. As our defeat unfolded, nothing good came from the decisions made by our leaders at CENTCOM, the Pentagon, or in Washington, DC. The decision to close Bagram Air Base and abandon the Afghans to terrorists and fanatical fascists was naïve and abhorrent. The White House turned their backs on our 20-year Afghan allies, NATO, and the coalition partner nations who served with us. They betrayed the Americans who didn’t come home from Afghanistan, 13 of whom were added to the count on Aug. 26. They betrayed our wounded who still carry the scars of the battlefield. They betrayed not only our Gold Star families, but also the families of the 800,000 of us who served in Afghanistan; all of whom are left wondering “… why …?” They sentenced Afghan girls, 1.6M of whom were in school in 2008, to a life of poverty, enslavement, and illiteracy as many of them are sold into marriage.

At CENTCOM and in the Pentagon our military leaders claimed subservience to the decisions made in the White House, and went right along with it all, supervising the chaos of the retreat. They turned airfield perimeter security over to terrorists, while desperate Afghans fell from the sky as they lost their grip on freedom. After 13 Americans were killed, they conducted a “righteous over-the-horizon” airstrike that killed an aid worker and seven children.

The events, from the rapid collapse of the Afghan government, to the chaos in Kabul, were all predictable to every Afghanistan veteran. We saw it coming. And when it was all over, none of our military leaders—not one—resigned. 

I understand that key leaders should see the retreat through to the end instead of dumping it on someone else. I get that. But when you testify to Congress about how you advised against closing Bagram, acknowledge that confidence in America is eroded, and tell the story of how 13 Americans were killed on your watch, you resign in order to stand with the Afghans, those we lost, and the 800,000 of us and our families who served with honor. But instead, our military leaders blamed policy and “confirmation bias,” hoping that the horror of the American defeat would fade quickly into the background of history. By standing with and affirming the American defeat, they broke trust with Afghanistan veterans, their families, and tens of millions of Americans who were horrified as the retreat unfolded live on television.

[Gen. Ronald R.] Fogelman understood where to stand. He resigned in 1997 as Chief of Staff of the USAF in protest of bad political policy centering on disciplinary actions surrounding the Khobar Towers bombing. In effect he told us, “no one else needs to resign, this one is mine, and I’ll take it for all of us; you all need to continue to serve and serve with honor.” General Fogelman understood when to fall on his sword and, by doing so, he stood with and for us. Apparently, except for one Marine lieutenant colonel, that skill set has abandoned our military leadership. I ask myself, ‘How bad does it have to get before someone resigns?’ Apparently, the current Pentagon leadership has no bottom when it comes to Afghanistan.

So, thank you Colonel McClasky for the ray of light in my Afghanistan darkness. You and your team did good, really good, as our civilian and military leaders both supervised and then stood by our defeat.

Col. Seth P. Bretscher, 
USAF (Ret.)
Lafayette, Ind.

Money, Money, Money

After the editorial statement that USAF needs new bombers, new fighters, new trainers, new tankers, I searched in vain for any indication in the editiorial or the entire magazine of any responsibility for the failure of Air Force leadership to be better stewards of the vast amount of public treasure they have been entrusted with over the years [“Editorial: The Bill Comes Due,” November, p. 2]. The answer can’t just be more tax money to buy weapons systems (F-35) that need new engines before they have become mature weapons systems.  Do we really need new ICBMs? If so why not adopt the Navy SLBM to silos?

Col. Michael R. Gallagher, 
USAF (Ret.)
Hillsboro, Ore.

Long Overdue

The article by Daniel Gade and Daniel Huang [“Wounding Warriors,” November, p. 43] that appeared in the November issue was spot on and to the point. Finally, someone has had the fortitude to speak out on the archaic manner in which our veterans are cared for and compensated. As soon as I finished reading it, I ordered the book. Please accept my thanks for publishing this excerpt from their book. It’s a must read.

CMSgt. Bill Goodman,
USAF (Ret.)
Anamosa, Iowa

Credibility is low on the Wounded Warriors VA story. Printed material on VA compensation that does not include the words concurrent receipt is not worth reading. Because I’m military retired, the amount I receive for my VA disabilities is deducted from my earned retirement pay. Grossly unfair! Support H.R. 303, to cease this unethical and wrong policy. Career retired disabled veterans are being cheated. The authors say “combat-wounded veterans must compete with opportunities for time and attention,” … Who do they think is submitting VA claims? Lastly, nations at war for two decades will triple their VA Disability and compensation spending.  

Brian Ward
Pensacola, Fla.

“Wounding Warriors” is a disservice to all veterans. The excerpted article attacks the moral integrity of wounded Soldiers who fought to keep Americans free. Going back to World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, when the draft was still used, and moving forward to today’s all-volunteer force, a disabled veteran applying for benefits is framed as “working the system.”  

First, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not come looking for you to award appropriate benefits—the veteran has to claim and justify every benefit they get. For example, the use of the dioxin “Agent Orange” throughout Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, unlike the TV 9/11 cancer commercials from dioxin polluted air, veterans have to find out on their own if their cancer is related to “Agent Orange” even though the VA has completed case studies linking the two.

Second, Lieutenant Colonel Gade’s retired pay should be around $100,000 a year.  VA 100 percent disability pay is around $42,000 a year. Worse, the VA uses a sliding scale if you have multiple injuries, say one rated at 60 percent, one at 40 percent, and one at 20 percent; they add up to a total disability of 80 percent, not 120 percent or even 100 percent. But that is then again factored into something under 50 percent of the 100 percent disability pay, for less than $20,000 a year.

Finally, when we ask volunteers to go in harm’s way with motto’s like, “The few, the proud …” and “Land of the free because of the brave” we as a country had better expect to step up when some veterans come back broken. Dioxins from “Agent Orange” and “Burn Pits” disable with cancer just as effectively as an amputation of a limb by an IED, they just take longer and are not as visible. When we become so callous we even think of a system that “rejects the idea” of compensating a veteran for a disability, we better be willing to bring back the draft.  Lieutenant Colonel Gade took advantage of a West Point education and two advanced degrees, plus months of lifesaving medical care overseas and at Walter Reed for his injury before arriving at his opinion.  The taxpayer cost of all of that can probably not be calculated much less come close to the disability benefits he wants to end.

John Conway
Jackson, N.J.

As the article and our book, Wounding Warriors, makes clear, the current VA system is fundamentally misaligned. Our argument is not that the process for getting health care and other benefits should not be improved, but rather that the objective of these benefits should be a self-sustaining veteran who can learn to work and thrive, despite the wounds of war. The VA too often channels veterans into pursuing disability increases, rather than emphasizing a speedy and successful recovery, including education and job placement. The best way to help veterans is to provide them with world-class treatment and care, and then empower their transitions into thriving civilian careers. Our conclusions and recommendations have received support from VA secretaries, policymakers, and scholars from both sides of the aisle.—the authors, Daniel Gade and Daniel HJuang

Say What?

I had to do the proverbial double take after reading my favorite author’s first sentence in the November issue: “After nearly 35 years in development and a $4 billion dollar Air Force investment, two brand new engines are in test …” [“Next-Generation Power for Air Force Fighters,” p. 30]. John Tirpak does not raise the question about this absurd amount of money being spent on such a small problem. Someone is getting ripped off, and I believe the name is taxpayer. I may be 97 1/2 years old, but I still comprehend waste when I see it. I am sure the blame game is well underway.

Lt. Col. Bill Getz,
USAF (Ret.)
Fairfield, Calif.

Remember the Regulations

In his letter to this magazine, retired Col. [Bill] Malec accused Gen. [Mark A.] Milley of apologizing and “whining” in regard to his appearance at a promotional political event in Washington [“Letters: The End in Afghanistan,” November, p. 5].  Perhaps Colonel Malec has forgotten that regulations prohibit military members in uniform from participating in partisan political events.  I’m sure, if the former [president] had been aware those regulations existed, he would not have asked General Milley to stand with him in a partisan photo op. General Milley found himself in an intolerable situation. He was participating in a prohibited political event at the request of his commander. If any other service member participated in such an event, in uniform, counseling or even a reprimand would have ensued. General Milley did the best he could to salvage the integrity of our forces by admitting his mistake.  By publicly apologizing he turned the mistake into an educational opportunity thus reminding us, and the rest of America, that our military is politically neutral.  More power to him for that.

MSgt. Ross McIntosh,
USAF (Ret.),
Bristol, Pa.

Blessings and Curses

I just read the editorial [“Peril, Perspective, and Resolutions”] by Tobias Naegele in the December 2021 Air Force Magazine. The opening sentence talked about the “opportunity to count our blessings and take note of what ail us.”

At the conclusion of this analysis, I was curious to find what the “blessings” included. He rightfully mentioned a number of specific items that “ails us.”  In fact, all I found were ailments, and absolutely no blessings. What ails us include China becoming more dangerous, Russia growing more belligerent, Iran developing nuclear weapons unabated, allies questioning our resolve, and our military advantages eroding day by day.  Then, add to those the feckless action of Congress by not passing a needed budget, and creating yet again, another continuing resolution. A boatload of ailments.

Where are the blessings? A republic that is stronger because it survived an attack on Jan. 6, 2021, by a bunch of renegades?  Is that the blessing? A sad commentary indeed.

We have a nation that is adrift. We cannot count one positive event that has moved our nation forward, and your list highlights everything that has gone wrong. Ailments abound, and blessings are nowhere.  Any idea what might turn this ship of state around? I, for one, can’t see any. Unless, of course, we go back to core values. Create an atmosphere of service before self, excellence in all we do, and toss out everything that has to do with wokeness.

Col. John R. “Dick” Strifert,
USAF (Ret.)
Exeter, N.H.

Have we given up on working to remain the best of the “world class military powers” or do we, as a nation, expect China to achieve its stated goal of being “on par with the U.S. military by 2035.  Indeed, it could achieve that goal by 2030.”  That is how I read the last paragraph of John Tirpak’s “Strategy and Policy: China’s No Longer Peaceful Rise,” December, p. 14.

I wish it had concluded by quoting President [Joe] Biden as saying something like this. 

 “But, with the full support of this and future administrations, China will never be within 10 years of achieving that goal.”

Lt. Col. Tom P. Currie, 
USAF (Ret.)
Westerville, Ohio

Database Success

The extensive new “Weapons and Platforms” digital database, readily available at the website is outstanding! I accessed the info pertaining to two of the aircraft that I used to pilot, the T-38, and the KC-135, and the graphics, the photos, and the data, are excellent. I used to have to dig out a hard-copy my annual Air Force Almanac issue when I sought accurate unclassified USAF aircraft performance characteristics. Thank you for making us all aware of such a reliable and easily accessible source of relevant info.  

Col. David R. Haulman,
USAFR (Ret.)
Ridgeland, Miss.

Fixing Enlisted Promotions

In 20 years of service almost every time I studied hard, I made the next stripe. Promotion to E-2 to E-4 is time in service/time in grade promotion; unless you get in trouble, you get promoted [“World: USAF Changing Enlisted Promotion Recommendations to Favor Experience and Performance,” November, p. 26].

E-5 to E-7, you take two tests, time in service, time in grade, and performance report points are added together with test scores, and if you do well on the tests you get promoted. The first time I tested for E-6, even if I would have scored 100 on both tests, I did not have enough time in service/time in grade points to be promoted. Also, Congress limits how many can be in each rank, so that can slow down promotion to the next grade. If there is not an opening you will not be promoted. Only about 20 percent get promoted to E-8 and about 5 percent get promoted to E-9 each year.

There is no magic bullet to fix any perceived shortcomings in the promotion system. Many factors go into why—or why not—someone is promoted. Supervisors need to monitor performance reports to make sure everyone is rated fairly, as low performance report ratings is one area that can lower your promotion score. I would like to see the performance report go to a promote/do not promote system. That way time in service/time in grade and test scores would be what gets you promoted. 

MSgt. Jeff L. Surratt,
USAF (Ret.)
Great Falls, Mont.

A Bloodless Victory

“Strategy and Policy: China’s No Longer Peaceful Rise” [December, p. 14] provides an excellent summary of China’s ability to militarily threaten and overcome Taiwan by force. Taiwan, on the other hand, is comparatively grossly under defensed, but this is not covered by the article.  

There is no doubt that China could destroy Taiwan’s military defenses and perhaps some of Taiwan’s critical infrastructure in a few days.  More defenses in Taiwan may only prolong the agony of being defeated in a few days.

In my humble opinion, Taiwan does not need more defensive military equipment. It needs an offensive capability that can destroy as much of Chinese property that it could accomplish in the first few hours after being attacked by China. This in effect would be their deterrence from being physically attacked.

This would not end China’s desire to take over Taiwan. China would have to wait a little longer to peacefully overcome Taiwan’s cultural, economic, and political power. By obtaining a pro-China president, legislative, economic and education system, China could again regain the hearts and minds of Taiwan without firing a single weapon. In the meantime, China could covertly infiltrate Taiwan’s population and economy with pro-CCP [China Communist Party] people.  

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