Base Cleanup

Why do Air Force generals eventually become walking cliches? Because over the course of 30-40 year careers, they fail to stay on pace with the context changing around them. Their thinking freezes. Ultimately, they become walking anachronisms.

Enter Mark Dillon, the 2-star currently serving as Vice Commander of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). It’s his job to be a prick. Still, this guy is inhabiting the year 2017 with a 1987 mentality. He desperately needs either a time machine or a DD214. If a time machine, it should be a DeLorean.

Here the email he sent out to Colonels and Chiefs at Hickam … the fact it was sent electronically serving as the only evidence he’s progressed beyond sips of Tang and episodes of Matlock.

Air Force Commanders and Leaders on Hickam, I took this photo Saturday

morning, 18 Mar at 1100 in front of the Hickam Fitness Center.  The next day

there was an unauthorized vehicle parked in this very spot (the PACAF/CC

spot).  I know that Gen Guillot and I and our Command Chief Johnson

routinely pick up the weeds in these spots and have to correct Soldiers,

Sailors, Airmen, Marines and civilians not to park in these designated

spots…I’m sure many of you do the same.  If we can’t enforce the little

things, we certainly can’t enforce the big things. 

My point for sending this one photo is it captures a trend.  The trend I’ve

observed and the feedback I receive when I ask is the following: it’s

difficult to follow Air Force standards–because we are a joint base…or

because it’s now AFIMSCs job….or because we have privatized housing….or

that’s an active or civilian or air guard issue…I disagree with all those

statements.  AF standards are our job.   

Everywhere you look across this historic base we can do better: in our

grounds and building maintenance, in our customs and courtesies, in our

privatized housing and yard maintenance, or inside and outside our quality

of life facilities, etc. 

The good news is there has been some progress…but these require steadfast

leadership:  24 hour Hickam Fitness center hours beta test, reduced wait

times at the gates, etc.  But we need to do more. 

I suggest a team of Air Force leaders get together to discuss how to

re-establish Air Force standards on Hickam Field.  To assist, I’ve reserved

the Kenny Conference Room at PACAF HQ on Friday, 7 April from 1300-1500 to

start the discussion and build on the progress already made. 

I’m sure I’ve missed some key commanders and leaders so I encourage you to

reach out to other Commanders/Command Chiefs.  All on the ‘to’ line

especially those who work, live, or recreate on Hickam are invited to

attend.

A concerned Airman,

          //signed//

MARK C. DILLON, Maj Gen, USAF

Vice Commander, Pacific Air Forces

DSN: 315-449-4506

Comm: (808) 449-4506

And here’s the photo to which he was referring in his meandering and obtuse screed:

Weeds

So here’s my question, and I’m not alone in posing it: with a manpower shortage of historic proportions, how is it that weed removal is your main issue?

Generals become walking cliches when they lose touch with the service they’re in. This isn’t the Air Force Dillon joined. We don’t have the manpower to pull weeds anymore. Hell, we don’t even have the manpower to do our jobs anymore.

Here’s my beef. Emails like this always end the same way. Someone at the low end of the rank structure does the weeding, and takes it out of hide. It will inevitably be the case, because once a 2-star takes a position that the weeds must go, they will go. But it won’t get done because a bunch of chair inhabitants got together and jawboned about it. It’ll get done because someone at some level will be coerced into doing what Dillon didn’t do: they’ll allocate resources.

Things don’t get done because of “concern.” They get done because they are prioritized. Dillon is prioritizing weeds to get them pulled, and his coercion will mean that already overworked people will have more work to do. He’s not offering a solution. He’s commanding the masking of deficiencies through manpower abuse. It’s the fantastical accomplishment of more with less through the application of contemporary generalship, which amounts to nostalgia-driven bullying.

Here’s a reality check. The Air Force already doesn’t resource to its mission. Not by about 60,000 airmen. It’s only getting the mission done because airmen are stretching to make it happen.

So maybe, Dillon, let’s not ask them to stretch more so you can have weed harmony. You’re not asking Colonels and E-9s to a meeting. You’re demanding an E-3 pick the weeds. Maybe don’t do that.

Consider the following alternative courses of action:

  1. Ignore the weeds and go smoke a pack of Luckys.
  2. Variation on #1: ignore the weeds until the 4-star does his own weed pulling. After all, it’s his exclusive spot and with ownership comes responsibility. if he cares about it, it’ll get done.
  3. Raise a purchase order to pay for someone who doesn’t already have a job and who doesn’t already cover someone else’s job to pull the weeds and get paid for it. Because after all, labor is neither free nor unlimited.

  4. Go ahead with your meeting, but surprise the attendees by spending the time strategizing about how to take better care of people, which is, after all, the first duty of command.

Bonus observation: in the time it took Dillon to snap this photo and craft this email, he could have directed his chauffeur to the BX and had his Exec grab some RoundUp for $5. Voila, problem solved for 60-90 days. 

It’s almost like this entire generation of GOs has been cryogenically frozen and missed the passage of time. Sure hope they wake up soon. Shit like this is painful to watch.