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. 26, 2024

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Public Service

In regards to the “Power Up” Editorial in the November issue, I have advocated for over 50 years to anyone who would listen, that every high school graduate serve in the military or other government service for two years. No exceptions. Such service would benefit them and our country in several ways.

They would provide much needed service to the country in many areas. Not all graduates are college material; those that are, will have matured, better prepared to study, and be serious college students. They will be there because they want to, not because it is expected of them.  (Remember the GIs who went to school after WW II?)

Those that don’t go to college, may continue their education in a community college, or any one of many trade schools. Employers are crying for people to work in the trades.

Some may continue in the military.  All would benefit our nation and themselves.

Frank Henderson,
USAF (Ret.)
West Des Moines, Iowa


In 2021, the U.S. Air Force took a commendable step forward by revising its grooming policies, allowing female service members to wear their hair in styles other than a bun and permitting them to shave their heads. These changes were initiated to address long-standing issues of discrimination, particularly against Black women and their diverse hair types. While these alterations have marked progress toward inclusivity and cultural sensitivity, it is essential to acknowledge that challenges persist for male service members, with grooming standards that may be perceived as outdated and discriminatory. 

Male Grooming Standards: The strides made in allowing women greater flexibility with their hairstyles underscore the need to reevaluate and modernize grooming standards for male service members. The current restrictions on hair length and the prohibition of earrings for men appear inconsistent with the principles of equality and diversity embraced by the Air Force. By revisiting these standards, the military can further promote a more inclusive environment.

Native American Perspectives: Notably, the case of Senior Airman [Connor] Crawn highlights the challenges faced by Native Americans within the Air Force. Crawn’s requirement to obtain a waiver for growing his hair for religious and cultural reasons raises questions about the accommodation of diverse practices within the military. The military should actively seek ways to accommodate the cultural and religious practices of all its members, ensuring that no individual is required to seek special permission for practices integral to their identity.

Addressing Stereotypes and Prejudices: The existing grooming standards for men may be rooted in traditional norms, but it is crucial to recognize and challenge these norms when they perpetuate stereotypes or prejudices. The Air Force should engage in open dialogue to assess the relevance of current grooming standards and their impact on fostering a diverse and respectful community.

The U.S. Air Force’s decision to update grooming standards for female service members in 2021 was a commendable move toward inclusivity and cultural sensitivity. However, it is imperative to extend this commitment to equality by revisiting and amending grooming standards for male service members, ensuring they align with contemporary values. 

Moreover, addressing the unique challenges faced by individuals like Crawn emphasizes the need for a comprehensive review of policies to accommodate the diverse backgrounds and practices of all military personnel. By doing so, the Air Force can continue to set an example as an organization that values diversity and fosters an environment of respect for all its members.

Airman Hayden Perez, USAF
Ramstein AB, Germany

Compromising Standards

I took another glance at the two letters in the October issue [“Recruiting,” p. 5] and the letter in December [“Rules are Rules,” p. 5], and I agree with all three writers that the Air Force is compromising standards for the sake of recruiting. This isn’t the first time the Air Force has thought of changing the rules by lowering the standards for the sake of trying to increase recruiting. Society’s norms have no place in the Air Force or military. Having higher standards for everything from technical skills to grooming is what sets the military above its civilian counterparts.

 Since the implementation of these new standards how has recruiting improved? From what I’ve seen recruiting might have improved but the social issues and grooming standards haven’t. Discipline has degraded and a lot of Airmen have started looking at their profession as a job instead of a profession of arms. Beards are out of control and vary from base to base. In my travels I’ve seen beards that are trimmed in various contemporary styles and some that would make Santa Clause envious. 

How are our current chemical warfare suits going to protect these folks? I’ve had at least six occasions where Airmen of various ranks were walking out of various facilities to their cars with no hats on and when this was addressed to them they said they forgot. This wasn’t always brand-new Airmen who just got on station either. This is basic customs and courtesies, which should be drilled into every Airman who goes to basic training. Add in sloppy saluting and hearing more “yeahs and dudes” when you hear people talking, it makes you wonder what is allowed to happen in our Air Force. Two Airmen blew through a stop sign after flying past me and when I asked one why, he said, ‘it wasn’t a big deal, but he wouldn’t do it again.’ I’m sure he was just blowing me off but it’s another example of some of our Airmen’s lack integrity and respect for the Uniform Code of Military Conduct. 

If the Air Force is serious about solving their recruiting issues, work on the issues that affect people the most, like good pay for what you’re asking them to do and the sacrifices their families must make. Make sure their housing is in great shape and well maintained by people who have a vested interest in the quality of these homes, not just the money they get paid to maintain them and most of all quit trying to come up with ways to get more for less. 

This issue, in particular, is one of the underlying reasons people are deciding to leave the service instead of staying the course. Involuntary retraining of Airmen from the career field they grew up in to fill holes in other career fields is a move that’s flawed from the start. Folks get put into jobs they know nothing about and are immediate outcasts who increase the workload in the career field they are being forced into. 

Their new trainers aren’t going to be happy about their extra workload. The security forces continually take a beating, as well as other career fields. Instead of involuntary retraining, why not address the issues that are forcing these people to leave. I dealt with these issues my entire career and on many occasions the reason given were just CYOA for shortfalls that could have been avoided by better planning, funding, and force projection requirements. 

Technology improvements can only compensate for lack of manpower to a degree. If we get into an actual gunfight with a peer adversary and start losing people, where will the qualified backfills come from? It’ll be too late for the draft. Our predecessors have got to be looking at our armed forces today and wondering what leadership is doing to cause all this turmoil. 

This latest experiment in social incorporation and inclusion will also pass but not before the Air Force and its Airmen pays dearly for the lack of foresight.

CMSgt. John P. Fedarko,
USAF (Ret.)
Xenia, Ohio


I understand the need to adjust recruiting needs to our current population, and meeting recruiting goals has been difficult.

However, just as promoting grade school and high school students who do not know how to read, write or do math is bad policy, it does nothing to make us a better nation; and, it fails our students. If they are not prepared with the tools necessary to succeed after school, we have failed them.

If we do not maintain a qualified Air Force, we will fail. Lowering recruiting standards is not the way to a qualified Air Force. Instilling pride in serving should be the road to service, not long-haired, bearded, and obese Airmen. Our recruiters should be up to the task, instead of taking the easy way out, by lowering the standards. I know, they only do what is asked of them.

I’ve recently seen pictures of the “new” uniform of the U.S. Space Force, and I am appalled. To me, they look like something worn by a theater usher, bell hop, or “Johnny” of Philip Morris fame. We should do better.

Also, the rank insignia on camos are ridiculous. Unless one is directly in front of the person, they have no way of knowing the rank of that person; a private or a general.  It appears as if the Air Force is ashamed of rank designation.  Be proud of your rank; display it on your sleeves or shoulders for all to see.

I respect a Muslim’s right to want to wear a hijab, but, just as long hair, mullets or other hairstyles do not belong in the Air Force, hijab do not belong (by the by, “Hawkeye” of M-A-S-H fame could not have had the shaggy hair he wore). For men, being cleanshaven and proper hair dress instills pride in their service.  Just as clean and pressed uniforms, and shined shoes do, also.  Women should be free to wear a hair- style of their choice as long as it does not interfere with their job. 

When one joins the service, they agree to abide by the rules and regulations of the service. If they do not agree, they don’t belong.

Call me old-fashioned. I am an Air Force veteran of the Korean era, and proud of it. 

Frank Henderson,
USAF (Ret.)
West Des Moines, Iowa

No Sale

I read “Selling the Space Force” in October [p. 37 ] with interest and concern. Both the cover and first-page photo depicted USAFA cadets obviously enjoying themselves experiencing zero gravity in the “Vomit Comet.” Later in the article, the author cites critics objecting to any consideration of human spaceflight for future Space Force operations. Count me in.  

At best, the focus of the Azimuth program is false advertising since the Space Force has no human spaceflight program. At worst, it may indicate a continued desire for the “Holy Grail” pursued by the USAF during most of my career: USAF astronauts, perhaps flying a space plane. Human spaceflight (we called it manned spaceflight then) served as bookends of my USAF career. 

During my first assignment, I conducted graduate-level experiments in an earlier version of the zero-gravity aircraft in the early 1960s when the USAF was developing the manned X-20 Dyna Soar. When that program was canceled, the USAF replaced it with the Manned Orbital Laboratory. After more than a billion dollars spent, this program was also canceled and the USAF astronauts migrated to NASA, effectively lost as USAF assets.  

The only unclassified positive outcome of these programs was the development of the large expendable Titan launch systems.  In my last assignment, I managed a two-stage rocket system, the Inertial Upper Stage, to ride aboard the Space Shuttle and take national security satellites to geosynchronous orbit. 

 I’m convinced that system cost 10 times more than if it had been designated exclusively for an expendable launch system. Launch operations were neither rapid nor responsive as the foremost priority of every shuttle mission was the safety of the crew, even when the mission was to launch an unmanned satellite.  

The Space Force should jettison any plans or dreams of human spaceflight. A human on the launch system of an orbiting system is completely at odds with the stated goals of the Space Force.

Col. Dennis Beebe,
USAF (Ret.)
Solvang, Calif.


I was surprised and proud of the recognition of the DOD Fire Academy in the December 2023 issue of Air & Space Forces Magazine [Airframes, pgs. 8 and 9]. The two-page layout and the accompanying paragraph made me proud and thankful.  

It’s one of the few times this career field has received this type of publicity.  The takeaway, for me anyway, is that the career field is made up of enlisted Airmen. Thank you.

CMSgt. Bruce Sincox,
USAF (Ret.)
Glen Allen, Va.

Too Much Conjecture?

 I had to chuckle at the conjecture  [“1st Flight of the B-21 Raider,” December, p. 18] about the recently revealed “features” on the B-21. I was in the F-117 program in 1988 when we transitioned from Black to Gray (that is, the existence of the aircraft being finally acknowledged, but still classified). The speculation in the media about what super-secret technologies might be ascertained given careful-enough scrutiny was a constant source of entertainment to us in the program. In reality, these observations had nearly always a much more obvious and mundane explanation.

 One example I recall was a discussion in Aviation Week and Space Technology over a letter from someone who had observed an F-117 and reported it had a blinking red light which seemed to go out for short periods of time, then come back on. This resulted in much discussion in subsequent letters about whether the aircraft could be transmitting some type of coded signal to a ground station or what other new technology this might represent. In fact, it was the rotating beacon, which was being blanked out by the aircraft when the aircraft banked.

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