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. 2, 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.

Is the Sky Really Falling?

 The September issue contained both “Old-School” [p. 5], a letter by Col. Art Cole, USAF (Ret.), and an article profiling the 2023 Outstanding Airmen of the Year [p. 58]—how ironic.  

The letter is the latest example of the overwrought hand-wringing about diversity found in the Letters section of this magazine. They usually present a false zero-sum game—we can have combat readiness and power, or we can have diversity—not both. As is typical, this letter is long on unsupported assertions and short on facts.

Let us therefore start with something factual. The Air Force’s governing directive on diversity and inclusion is AFI 36-7001.  It unequivocally states:  

1.7. Prohibited Activities.

1.7.1. Numerical Goals. No numerical goals may be set for the hiring or promotion of Air Force military or civilian personnel on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity), age, or sexual orientation. Nor may race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity), age, or sexual orientation be a basis for admission to any training or development program.

Notwithstanding this formally codified and enforceable standard, the letter nonetheless paints a grievous picture of our service plagued by:

“For straight, White males, however, there is an implicit vilification diversity and inclusion being slammed down members’ throats … given way to pronouns, victims, diversity, CRT (critical race theory), and the like; … Those ill-conceived notions destroy unit cohesion and promote a ruinous victimhood.” The letter goes on to imply that diversity efforts have negatively affected recruiting.

Unfortunately, none of this is presented with a single scintilla of fact or evidence to support any of it. Are these assertions supported by readiness and/or discipline data, ubiquitous DOD/AF personnel/unit “climate” surveys, retention exit interviews?  Or are they simply the talking points from the cable news and internet echo chambers? 

On the other hand, here is irrefutable evidence of the state of our service:  the uninterrupted and continuing magnificent performance of our officers and enlisted force in conflicts large and small, near and far, with manpower, budgets and resources at times adequate at others paltry, executed with the same pride, spirit, camaraderie and cohesion that has always been and remains the hallmark of the United States Air Force. 

Which brings us to the 2023 OAY article. The 12 honorees are most certainly a diverse bunch. What should we make of that? What I make of it is that without lowering any bar, we embarked on a path in 1948 to accept and integrate those previously shunned. More recently, while continuing on that path, and again without lowering any bar, we’ve worked hard to ensure all those we do accept have a level playing field on which they can either succeed or fail on their own merit.  The cream among those on that expanded bench has risen and been hitting (and continues to hit) home runs for us ever since—go figure.

Any fair reading of the accomplishments of this year’s OAY tells us that our force is far closer to those ideals than the unfounded blather spewing from the so-called culture wars. Based on the letter, perhaps the writer might wish these honorees looked more like they did back in (his perception) of the “good old days.”  But he can take some comfort in the fact that, contrary to his suggestion, at least all their pronouns appear to be just like he likes them. 

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

Your continuing to print prejudiced commentary from members and former members embarrasses you and the force.  I refer this time to the letter of Col. Art Cole appearing in the September issue, claiming, as a result of the Pentagon’s embrace of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives, that “straight White (sic) males” suffer implicit “vilification.”  Cole’s letter goes on to say that these “ill-conceived notions destroy unit cohesion and promote a ruinous victimhood.”

The irony of Cole’s extremist claims, not to mention their dubious reliability, is that he casts himself along with all other straight White males as victims. One is moved to conclude that it, indeed, takes one to know one!

You have said in the past that your editorial policy is just to reflect the views of all members of the force past and present.  It needs to be recognized that the airing of these kinds of views in an organ purporting to support all of our Air and Space Forces, while ostensibly done to exhibit the breadth of opinion that may be abroad in the force, can act as a demoralizing factor to those who have felt the racist and sometimes homophobic intent that can be read in these letters, flying literally In the face of any semblance of government DEI imperatives.

Col. Raleigh Truitt,
USAF (Ret.)
Red Bank, N.J.

Security Forces Airmen

Just read the article on the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year. Being an ex-Security Forces/police officer, it made me feel really good to see that five of the 12 are associated with today’s Air Force Security Forces! My beret is off in congratulations to them all!

Maj. Dean Hayes,
USAF (Ret.)
Bellevue, N.H.

Counting Aces

Daniel Haulman’s article [“Credit Where It’s Due,” October, p. 47] about U.S. air combat victories uses an interesting word when he speaks about the record of the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG), the “Flying Tigers” who defended Burma and China in the early months of the Pacific War, when he writes that they “tallied 286 aerial victories.” 

Well, not really, if the verb is supposed to mean they actually destroyed that many Japanese aircraft in air-to-air combat. In the first place, the AVG paid combat bonuses for enemy aircraft destroyed on the ground. Subtracting those, the number of AVG aces with five or more victories drops to 19, and the group’s “tally” to 230. See the individual breakdown at

But more important, those were claims, not confirmed victories. In the course of writing my history of the Flying Tigers, I worked with American, British, Chinese, and Japanese sources, and I read scores of Japanese accounts of the air war in Southeast Asia. In several cases I was able to identify the man in the cockpit of a Nakajima fighter supposedly shot down in combat, with his version tracking the American account moment by moment, except for the way the fight ended, with the Japanese pilot limping home.

Giving every possible break to the American side, I came up with about 100 air-to-air victories for the AVG. (If a plane crashed on the way home, for example, I counted that as a combat victory.) That was no small accomplishment, and it meant that the Flying Tigers bested the Japanese Army Air Force in almost every encounter from December 1941 to July 1942. 

Daniel Ford
Durham, N.H.

—Daniel Haulman responds: My job as a USAF historian was to keep track of the official aerial victories awarded by Air Service, Army Air Forces, or United States Air Force orders or victory credit board reports. The credits earned by the Flying Tigers were awarded not by the Army Air Forces but by the Chinese. 

It is very possible that the number of credits awarded by the Chinese was higher than that actually achieved in aerial combat. My source for 286 credits for the American Volunteer Group was therefore not a primary source but a secondary one: “The American Aces of World War II and Korea,” by W. N. Hess, p. 36.

ACE on the Base

Having read Gen. James B. Hecker’s words in the September “Verbatim” section [p. 30], I have the following comments:

In 1996-99, I was assigned as Senior Logistician for AIRCENT at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.  One of my responsibilities, besides TacEvals, was Aircraft Cross Servicing among our 16 NATO nations.  We planned ACS exercises all across Europe, from Norway to Spain and from Turkey to the U.K. Some of these exercises involved as many as 11 nations. There were two types of exercises/evals, one for “gas and go” and the other for “gas, rearm, and go.”

All this was after the [Berlin] Wall came down, so it saddens me to think the great work AIRCENT did back then is no longer applied to our forces. It made great sense then, and as General Hecker said, it is relevant now.

On another note, AIRCENT conducted the very first PfP (Partnership for Peace) exercise involving former Warsaw Pact countries in 1998 at Sliač, Slovakia. It was interesting that those countries had the ability to reuse captured NATO aircraft because they had NATO standard adapters. I was the chief of maintenance with 17 nations on my flight line for that exercise which was called Cooperative Chance 98.

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

Red Storm Rising

Your September issue was truly excellent in every way.  This magazine seems to get more insightful and comprehensive with every installment!

I was particularly impressed—and frightened—by Tobias Naegele’s editorial entitled “China Syndrome” [p. 2]. It reminds me of the perfect storm that was the premise for the hostile Soviet actions resulting in a Third World War in Tom Clancy’s intriguing novel “Red Storm Rising” (Berkley Publishing Group, 1986). 

 It is amazing how facts seem to often mimic fiction!  Thank you for reminding us how brittle and dangerous China is, and how essential our vigilance is today.

Lt. Col. Allen Q. Thames Jr.,
USAFR (Ret.)
Montgomery, Ala.