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Rewards for bad performance? Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force

June 11, 2014 - Paul Giannamore
Have a bad attitude that compromises your ability to do your duties?

If you’re a U.S. Air Force nuclear silo team member, it could earn you a bonus. And a medal.

Those are parts of the USAF’s plans for beefing up the morale of the nuke force, demoralized before the exposure of failed readiness drills, including one scenario that would have allowed potential terrorists to take over and hold a missile silo. Oh, and lest I forget, the exam cheating scandal.

Sure, give ‘em a bonus. That’ll make them feel better. Fits perfectly with our armed forces.

We have Marines no longer allowed to be too mean in boot camp. We have debates over whether women should have to do the same physical tests as men to get into combat duty.

So why not reward a force for being at least in part a bunch of screw-ups?

Admittedly, the Air Force is doing more, such as seeking to fill depleted nuke command ranks and modernize the force. But the whole sense of the thing to me is that it will fail to address the core problem: The nuke silo forces feel like they’re not doing a mission vital to survival of the nation anymore. Instead, they’re just going through the motions. Which leads to caring a whole lot less about duty.

It’s like buying the Chevy Cobalt Ignition Team a pizza lunch while the world is coming down on them. Not going to change the impending sense of lack of a future.

So it is that the Dr. Strangelove theorem of a whacko taking over a silo will still loom. (If you don’t know the story, a rogue nuclear base commander decides to order a strike on Russia and through a tragicomic series of errors and a well-placed Russian SAM, one bomber cannot be recalled, touching off a nuclear holocaust.)

Just so we’re clear here, I don’t think showing up with a bad attitude that degrades your performance over time will work for big bonus pay at your workplace. In the real, nongovernment world, people get fired, like those engineers at GM. No pizza, no bonuses. Just termination and shame if such a thing still exists in today’s world.

I don’t intend this to demean the men and women in uniform. Just the opposite.

We ask them to do a job that could require them to choose their life or liberty for the country. Don’t they deserve a true sense of purpose, and a feeling they’re connected to something bigger and important?

I kind of hope the missile men go to work whistling and ready to go, at leat until we decide there are other ways of returning to those old, stable Cold War days of Mutually Assured Destruction as a foreign policy.


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