For those who do not know me, I retired from the US Military a year ago this past Saturday. I served 4 years enlisted in the Air Force and 16 years as an officer in the Army. As an enlisted man I was a Tail-gunner in a B52 and logged just shy of 1000 flight hours. Unfortunately for me I was facing backwards without a window so didn’t get to see anything besides my radar screen and my EWO, but I had some great experiences with some even greater people. The reason I left the good ole’ Air Force was because I was working with 5 officers making 3 times my salary and doing no more work than me, so I decided to leave get my degree so I could be making as much money as they were.
So I went back to college and got not only my Bachelor’s degree but my Master’s as well. Joined the Army ROTC based on the possibility that with my background and degree I stood an excellent chance to become a helicopter pilot, the Air Force told me I would not be qualified to be a pilot because of my eye sight.
After graduation I was commissioned a shiny new butter bar and an Army Aviator, I had my dream or so I thought. I completed flight school and was assigned to Hawaii, things were looking extremely positive for me. Little did I know that was the highlight of my entire Army career. Once I left Hawaii I would never be in another position that allowed me to be at the controls of a helicopter. After the Army spent nearly $1 million on getting me trained and taking a year to do it I was shuffled from one staff job to the next for the rest of my career. Now you may be saying to yourself that I must have done something to get taken out of the airframe, let me answer that with a resounding NO. I was even asked by my evaluation pilot during my last flight why I was never made a pilot in command, which for every pilot is the first goal you strive to achieve.
So here I am after serving 20 years in the Military I look back on that career and I am filled with disappointment at what I failed to achieve. You see it was always my dream to be a combat pilot and fly at tree top level and drop off some bad ass SEALs, Green Berets, or Rangers to do their mission and come back and bring them home, that is a dream I will now never fulfill. I think it would be better to have never known what it is like to fly that helicopter so I wouldn’t realize what I was missing, but I do know and wish I could have done it more often than I was allowed. You see I have more than twice as many flight hours in a B52 after only 4 years of being in the Air Force than I do after spending 4 times as long in the Army, 16 years remember.
So why you may ask did this happen? I can only offer a hypothesis after spending many hours of reflection on this topic is that the good ole’ boy network, which I was NOT a member, was working against me. You see I called my assignment officer, on several occasions and talked to numerous different ones, and was always told this is all I have for you. Which tells me that is what they had to fill as they re-directed the job I wanted to someone they knew. How do I know this? Well on one occasion I was offered what I thought of as a premier job and after the assignment officer was reassigned for his own career progression the next guy, who I had known in a previous assignment as a boot lackey, called and told me that assignment was no longer available. I was due to move in less than 2 months when this happened. Later I found out he reassigned it to one of his buddies. He must have put some note in my file because I never was offered a decent assignment after that day.
I was willing to do my part for the team and help where I could because I thought at some point it would be my turn to get a real premier job and enjoy doing what the Army spent so much money training me to do, that day NEVER came. I heard all the guilt trips about why and what is best for the Army etc, but at some point of sacrificing to the Army there should have been a little reward for my duty and dedication. Boy was I naïve. Instead those who kissed butts were rewarded while those of us capable of doing the hard work and making the sound decisions were delegated to the least desirable jobs that had to be done.
I have seen more unqualified and ignorant dumbasses get promoted because they had those career enhancing positions while others who were infinitely smarter and better qualified left after being dumped on for so long.
So when people ask me what I think of them joining a branch of service I always tell them the same thing, join anything EXCEPT the Army. The Army will just abuse you and throw you away to grab the next dumb schmuck in line to keep moving on. Don’t get me wrong, we need an Army and the individuals that comprise the bulk of it are the greatest Patriots in the nation, but they are being so mismanaged that it is criminal. Their sacrifices and diligence go to advancing those in charge that are more concerned about their own career than the backs of the people they are standing.
From all this I have learned a lesson that I fear is not as dominant as it should be and one that my mother tried to teach me as a child. Treat others as you would want to be treated. The Army always says “Lead by example” but the examples I saw are not the ones I want to follow. Am I bitter, you bet your ass; would I do it again, HELL NO, I would go back into the Air Force.