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. 20, 2023

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.

Leaders by Example

I have enjoyed all the excellent articles on Chiefs of Staffs of the Air Force, especially the last two.  I was privileged to work directly under both Gen. Larry D. Welch and Gen. Michael J. Dugan when they were colonels. It was obvious then that both were destined for stars and upper USAF leadership roles.

I have a couple of thoughts on the event that cut short Dugan’s tenure as CSAF. I have never read the job description of the CSAF but am pretty sure  it contains a line something like, “… the No. 1 proponent of USAF air power.” In his remarks to reporters, Dugan was doing just that. Nothing he said was classified or endangered national security. Nothing was untrue. Nothing demeaned the other services.  

He simply emphasized the importance of air power in the current situation. And four months later, the wrath of the very effective air campaign was unleashed on the forces of Saddam Hussein, bringing him to his knees in a month and likely saving the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of ground troops.

The Secretary of Defense’s response to a pouting Chairman was hasty.  Had he not done so in his “Ready, FIRE, Aim” style, the USAF would have continued to benefit from Dugan’s exceptional leadership and been spared the dubious, unnecessary, and costly reorganization of the USAF by CSAF #14.

I still retain a copy Dugan’s hand written departure note: “To the men and women of the Air Force—Your mission—providing air power and space power to the nation—is enduring and essential.

I bid you farewell with my head high, my mach up, and my flags flying. Good luck, good hunting, and God speed to the greatest Air Force in the world.”

Now that is a high class leader who had just taken a severe gut punch.  

Col. Jack Sanders,
USAF (Ret.)
Ashburn, Va.

History has shown us that our  elected leaders don’t always listen to the advice of our flag officers during military conflicts. It seems at some point the politicians stop thinking about winning the conflict and become more concerned with their next election.

Once the politicians take over managing the conflict, there is not much chance of wining; i.e., Vietnam. It seems that politicians are intimidated by flag officers. Officers are proven professionals that choose honor and integrity as a way of life. 

Most politicians have problems with both concepts. In the ’70s and ’80s … flag officers as a group seemed to become sensitive to politically sensitive political concerns. The politicians are more comfortable with these 2.0 officers.

I’m glad to say that I served in Gen. Michael J. Dugan’s Air Force. He was the last warrior and paid the price, unfortunately.

CMSgt. Leon T. Jarrett,
USAF (Ret.)
Surprise, Ariz.

Drone Threat

After reading many articles in the Air & Space Forces magazine and its predecessor for the past 50+ years, I find myself wondering what new innovations exist to counter the not-so-future growing threats and “new” weapons.  Of concern is the imminent threat of a series (or swarm) of miniature drones, unlike the UAVs, Global Hawk, Raptor, Predator, Pioneer, Hunter, Dragon Eye, etc., mostly used for surveillance with limited hunter-killer capabilities.  

Mini-drones have been used as precise flying machines for the past several years, as we have seen in festival and holiday displays throughout the world. China used them in the Olympic opening ceremonies, we’ve seen them by the hundreds in Washington, D.C., for the Fourth of July, and have seen the damage they can do as Kamikaze strikes in Ukraine.

Just to mention a few articles in the November issue, “The New National Defense Strategy,” “B-21 Raider: The Indispensable Bomber,” even “F-16s Intercept Russian Bombers Near Alaska.” Maybe they couldn’t work it in, or there’s just a lack of vision of the capability of a wall of synchronized drones as a threat. Could they get through undetected, or by overwhelming numbers?

As the Heritage Foundation’s 2023 “Index of U.S. Military Strength“ rated the service “very weak,” perhaps a rethinking of real and upcoming threats, and counter threats could add to our strength equation.  

If the articles above (any many more), included the real threat (and employment) of relatively cheap and disposable drones en mass, dancing in precision and blanketing the sky, we might not have to spend mega-billions of dollars developing, deploying, maintaining, and replacing soon-to-be technologically obsolete, outmatched weapon systems for which we can’t find enough qualified pilots to fly anyway.  Or, maybe that’s too far out of the box.

Col. Alan K. Booker,
USAF (Ret.)
Beavercreek, Ohio

Weighted Comments 

Maj. Gen. Douglas A. Schiess, Commander, Combined Force Space Component Command, US Space Command; and Vice Commander, Space Operations Command commented in a discussion about space operations (ASC22, Sept. 19):  “Some of our satellites are the fat kids in gym class.  We need to make sure that we have a resilient force and not so many fat kids—although those are really capable fat kids.”  [Verbatim, “Give it All You’ve Got,” November 2022.] 

I really don’t know the context in which this statement was made, but the reference to “fat kids” reminds me of when I entered Active duty in 1967.  I noticed then that many general officers and colonels were overweight but it never bothered me since I assumed they gained weight over time.  

Then, a “fat boy” policy was instituted.  There was no weight and height chart to follow.  The basic policy was if you looked overweight, you were placed on the “fat boy” program to lose weight.  Amazingly, overweight senior officers and general officers disappeared. Following the leadership, overweight personnel were back in shape, not allowed to reenlist or did not receive another assignment.  

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

‘Committing Truth’

If I read the articles on the Chiefs of Staff Interviews, three did not serve out their term.  As devastating as I know it had to be personally, I am reminded of a GM14 with whom I worked in my next-to-last Air Force assignment.  Whenever he saw a senior individual relieved of his/her command (civilian or military) due to putting their integrity above career, he said simply, “That person committed truth.”  Enough said about my admiration for those three heroic Chiefs.  

Second topic is one I think about often—Air Force acquisition. Most of my military career was in one way or another tied to or working within the Air Force acquisition community, as a budget officer, cost analyst estimator, and strategic analyst. 

The article entitled, “Acquisition Reform Takes on a Sense of Urgency” [November, p. 39] caught my undivided attention—regrettably for the article and Air Force acquisition leaders. Nowhere in this article did I see the words affordability, design for manufacturing least cost processes, or design for least cost sustainability. Looking at the current Air Force aircraft being procured provides good examples of the absence of these cost-conscious thoughts or their implementation.  

The F-35 has continued to cost more than anticipated, as has the KC-46. Furthermore the field usage sustainment costs of the F-35 have been astronomical (according to past Air Force Magazine articles), and the KC-46 design is barely complete and I anticipate there will be many cost sustainment challenges on that aircraft as well.  It is obvious that neither Boeing nor Lockheed worried about less costly manufacturing processes or sustainment cost containment during their designs—and thus we have cost growth in both areas on both aircraft. 

I wonder just how many cost estimating, cost process, manufacturing cost educated and experienced experts in these areas either the U.S. defense industry has or the Air Force. My guess is, not many if any. I suggest that without people who have these skills, virtually every aircraft the Air Force buys in the future will continue to be a budget buster.  And this becomes a critically important issue particularly with the need of a large quantity of B-21 bombers. How soon the Air Force leadership seem to forget what the lack of affordability did to the Air Force’s purchase of B-2 aircraft when it was killed at only 20 produced aircraft.   

Lt. Col. John Bredfeldt,
USAF (Ret.)
Dawsonville, Ga.

Air Force Power?

Air & Space Forces Association and Air & Space Forces Magazine. I cheered the creation of our separate Space Force. The change will serve the country well.  

Now I look forward with much anticipation to the creation of a separate Space Force Association/Magazine, and the rest of us can get back to talking about airplanes and air power.

Lt. Col Dale Hanner,
USAF (Ret.)
Loveland, Colo.

Pegasus Lives on

I read Greg Hadley’s article, “AMC Investigating Class A Mishap That Damaged KC-46 Boom, Fuselage,” in the December 2022 magazine [p. 31] with great interest and got exactly what I expected. The ongoing issues with the KC-46 should be valid concerns for those that have manufactured it and more importantly those that must fly and maintain it. 

While the investigation is ongoing, and a cause has not been determined, if a stiff boom contributed to the incident this would be unfortunate since this was a problem recognized early on. This is one of several issues with the platform that have not been fully resolved and the aircraft has not been declared fully combat capable. Hopefully once the investigation is complete, whatever the issue is, it can be resolved quickly without compromising safety or inflating the cost of the aircraft. 

The KC-135 had a boom refueling system with over 60 years of practical/successful experience. Transitioning the proven system to the new aircraft without all the bells and whistles would have eliminated many of the problems the Pegasus is currently experiencing and will experience in the future, but time will tell. 

I have over 15 years’ experience on tanker aircraft, and they are critical to the Air Force’s mission. Pegasus hasn’t quite lived up to the legacy of its predecessor. Maybe one day soon it will.

Chief John Fedarko
Xenia, Ohio

From the Editor: Please see this month’s feature on efforts to solve the KC-46 deficiencies on page 48.

Just Say No to Politics

The AFA website describes Air & Space Forces Magazine as “the monthly journal … and among the world’s foremost publications on defense, aerospace, and air power (emphasis added).

On a higher plane, the website defines AFA’s mission, “to promote dominant U.S. Air and Space Forces as the foundation of a strong National Defense; to honor and support our Airmen, Guardians, and their Families; and to remember and respect our enduring Heritage” (emphasis added).

Further, three mission strategic pillars are listed:

Educate the public on the critical need for unrivaled aerospace power and promote aerospace and STEM education …(emphasis added)

Advocate and promote aerospace power… (emphasis added)

Support Airmen, Guardians, and the families … (emphasis added).

With all that as perspective, please explain what “Democratic Republic,” a letter by retired Major James L. Tippins, published in the November issue of Air & Spaces Forces Magazine, has to do with any of that?

I hope you would agree that for any military-related organization and its journal to be both relevant and respected, it must first and foremost be scrupulously apolitical—indeed, a bedrock requirement and characteristic of the force itself.  That standard should apply equally to reasoned letters chosen for publication in the journal, as well as the substantive articles.

It is with disappointment that I’ve observed in the Letters section of the magazine, a creeping descent into our national morass of culture wars noise.  The decision to publish letters such as this, which have nothing whatsoever to do with the boldfaced items above, is an excellent example.

Col. Dan Koslov,
USAF (Ret.)
Alexandria, Va.

Hidden Truths

  “The Near Nuclear War of 1983” by Brian J. Morra in the December 2022 issue [p. 47] of Air & Space Forces Magazine is important for both its overview and an implication. 

Morra notes the events were kept in the shadows “until around 2015, when some government papers were finally declassified.” The passive voice glosses over how the declassification occurred: a small group of researchers used the Freedom of Information Act and Mandatory Declassification Review process to doggedly pursue release of key documents. He also claims the President and other opinion leaders forgot about the 1983 war scare. But that is not quite correct because it is impossible to forget what one never knew. 

The close call in 1983 remained largely unknown and unexamined because key documents remained classified far beyond the time required by any compelling need. Accordingly, an implication of “The Near Nuclear War of 1983” is the need for a muscular declassification effort to inject more historical material into the public domain, and that is best accomplished with robust institutional support. 

Contrast today’s anemic declassification efforts with this quote displayed at the beginning of a series of 1950’s films titled “The Air Force Story:” 

“It is the job of all the people to know and understand what the Airman has done and is doing today … for only with full public knowledge and understanding can we have the support we need to carry out our mission. It is a big mission and an important one. It involves the future well­being of every American—the peace of the world.”

The 1983 Able Archer exercise is probably not the only Cold War incident that remains obscure. With the pending budget fights, the Air Force could benefit from all the public support it could get, and public support will be easier to obtain when our proud historical record of success is accessible.

Lt. Col. Allan G. Johnson,
USAF (Ret.)
Fairfield, Calif.

More than Tech and Data

The article “Refining the JADC2 Concept,” in the November 2022 issue [p. 48] addressed very well the “tech and data” issues of this important defense initiative. I believe there is a third, equally important, component of JADC2, and that is “personnel”—smart, joint trained, joint experienced, joint focused!   

Regardless of uniform, it is essential to an effective JADC2 that commanders and staff know and maintain a joint perspective—“Think Joint.”  With the limited defense resources we have today and the growing threats we now face, JADC2, with trained and experienced personal having a joint perspective, is even more important to maintaining a viable strategic deterrence and war fighting capability.  

It is important that the Air Force be at the forefront of this initiative and recognize the critical importance of joint service experience, which has not always been the case. I served in multiple joint service assignments in intelligence, initial digital geospatial data development, and digital advanced weapon/command and control system development, at the start of the “digital revolution”, during my 25-year Air Force career, from 1964 to 1990.  

Joint service experience began to be important to the Air Force, but is exponentially more important today.  Additionally, “Intelligence” remains the key and should be properly recognized as such and included in the expanded acronym “JADC2I.”

Lt. Col. Stephen P. Pedone,
USAF (Ret.)
Naples, Fla.