Friday, August 21, 2009

Ummm... OK

I wasn't sure quite how I'd address this... or even IF I would mention it at all. But, what the Hell:
August 19, 2009—"Joking" comments of Army Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of US Central Command, during his presentation at the Marine Corps Association Foundation dinner on July 30 belittled the contributions of the Air Force to the joint force.
In his prepared remarks, Petraeus said: "Then, of course, 25,000 feet above them [soldiers and marines], an Air Force pilot flips aside his ponytail and looks down at them through his cockpit as he flies over. 'Boy,' he radios his wingman, 'It must be tough down there.' "
We reviewed the video to get his actual remarks and found he embellished his "joke," changing the altitude to 30,000 feet and saying, "… an Air Force pilot flips aside his ponytail—I don't know how that got in there; I know they haven't had ponytails in a year or two—and looks down … ."
Petraeus, as leader of CENTCOM, the joint force charged with running operations in Southwest Asia, should have known better than to make such disparaging remarks, even in jest. Certainly, his handlers at CENTCOM finally realized the effect they would have—they excised that part of his remarks from the version on the CENTCOM Web site. (We found the original version—along with the video—still posted on Aug. 19 at the Marine Corps Association Web site.)
In all fairness, early in his actual remarks, Petraeus did offer this joint praise, saying, "The best examples of true importance have been found in our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have deployed in harm's way."
However, those words do not alleviate the offensiveness—and un-jointness—of his later comments. They are symptomatic of the long-held belief of many ground commanders that airpower is no longer, if it ever was, relevant. (Read Fraudulent Flak from the September 2000 Air Force Magazine.)
Well, now. It seems USAF's senior leadership is not only politically-correct to a fault, but they're a bit thin-skinned, too. The title of the piece in Air Force Magazine is "Beyond Outrageous," but I'd like to suggest to those taking offense that a joke is sometimes... just a joke. Or is it just me who finds this sorta affected outrage to be excessive? I hope not.
Update, 08-22-2009: Just for snark's sake... would you look at all the frickin' HARDWARE on The Good General's uniform?
Ridiculous. Our generals look like Panamanian dictators these days; our admirals much less so, Thank God. Marine generals are much like our admirals... so I'll give them a qualified pass, as well. All this embellishment on our military uniforms is strangely reminiscent of a culture in decline. Just sayin'.


  1. I thought there was always jokes between the different military forces. Seems rather normal to me. If the Air Force is truly "outraged" maybe they should flip their ponytails and fly over it :) I agree - sometimes a joke is just a joke.

  2. It's a joke when it's offered in an informal setting by someone who is NOT the commander of a major command. It's a poke in the eye at the Joint Mission, worthy of Joe Biden, when the CentCom commander says it out loud at anyone's Foundation dinner.

    A joke's a joke, but this, eh -- I think he went over the line and I have no affiliation with Air Force (although you guys DO have great golf courses!) ;-)

  3. Lou: There are ALWAYS jokes and good-natured ribbing between and amongst the services. The Air Force takes a LOT of flak because we have a relatively high standard of living compared to the other services. That and the fact that we're a little lax about some of those "military" protocols. But yeah... I don't think for a minute that Gen. Petraeous meant to diminish the contribution made by the Air Force. And ya gotta consider he was addressing a bunch of Jarheads at the time... :D

    Moogie: I think that was the point of the Air Force Magazine article... that one must consider WHO said it, when he said it, and to whom. Yet still, I think USAF IS over-reacting.

  4. Buck,
    I have heard this joke a long time ago and it included an Army SF guy, and a Navy Seal and then the Air Force guy. It not only picked on the Air Force but on each branch on the way up as well.

    I think even given in a formal setting it was among other members of the military it is an ok Joke to tell. In the Navy while deployed the Officer cadre of the Air Wing would hold a function on the ship known as the "Focsle Follies" (held on the ships Forecastle). They would tell jokes and put on skits about what they had been doing and they would pick on not just themselves but on squadron mates, between squadrons and even between the Air Wing and the Ship's complement as well. This always served to air problems to the chain of command in a humors tone and allowed problems that would normally fester to be excised.

    All accomplished with a Joke.

    You can learn a lot from humor laughter around you and especially from the ones that are not laughing.

    BT: Jimmy T sends.

  5. Well, my thoughts are worthless here. Except to say I find Moogie's distinction to be well-thought-out; the boss should know what kind of a big club he's swinging around, and when it makes contact it's not always funny.

    Of course, it really isn't cricket when the speaker is addressing a specific audience, to go repeating to another audience and then solicit responses. The repetition of his words may be factual, but the implied lack of discretion on his part is completely made-up. Brings to mind some comments the radio guys were making this morning about sexual-harassment and how our tort system has produced a "utopia" in which everyone's pretty much terrified to say anything at all. Even if Petraeus took needless liberties and would've kept himself on a tighter leash if given another opportunity, this whole thing feeds into THAT...and we're all suffering as the society, in the services as well as out of 'em, continues to teeter on that cliff. So a pox on all of 'em.

  6. It's the whole creeping PC thing...nobody can take a joke anymore. Inter-service rivalry is nearly as old as the Constitution.

  7. MissBirdlegs in AL21 August, 2009 18:33

    I really don't have a dog in this fight, other than the fact that it seems that some people take umbrage at everything these days. I absolutely hate the PC thing - it infringes on everyone's freedom of speech. BR is right - nobody can take (or make, it seems) a joke anymore. We all used to be much more relaxed about which things mattered & which didn't.

  8. Dad is an Army lifer, sister and brother-in-law Air Force and me in the Navy. We used to trade barbs every time we ran across a real zinger.
    I laughed at you comment about a certain laxness in the USAF with regard to some matters. My brother-in-law, then a USAF captain, got an Article 15 for not having his jacket zipped up properly and another one for having a "messy" BOQ room. That was 25 years ago but even then, a navy officer with just one NJP knew his career was over and that he'd reached terminal rank. Maybe it wasn't that way for the Air Force.

  9. JimmyT sez: You can learn a lot from humor laughter around you and especially from the ones that are not laughing.

    True, dat. Humor was a BIG part of my leadership style in the way-back, and as you say: I learned a LOT from just that.

    Morgan: Your point about how the tort system has terrified everyone is well taken... and that's the fallout from all this PC bullshit taken to the extreme. A pox on all of 'em, indeed.

    BR: Inter-service rivalry is alive and doing quite WELL in my family, LOL!

    Miss BL in AL: Agreed... we've lost our perspective as a culture, for the most part, all because of the damned grievance/victim crowd.

    Curtis: Dang! I'm glad I wasn't in your BIL's outfit... I'd have been court-martialed for damned sure for some of the stuff I did 28 years ago, had I been in his squadron/wing.

    In my experience on the E-side of things in the AF... if you got an Article 15 that resulted in the loss of a stripe you were pretty much toast, career-wise... assuming you were an NCO. Airmen had a little more slack, but not much. You imply your BIL wasn't in that situation and I find that strange, given that "things" were/are MUCH tougher on the O's in this space.

  10. We can't even tease one another anymore - about ANYTHING. Someone is always getting their feelings hurt.

    Yet, the trolls come on my blog and call me an assortment of names and then when I don't publish their remarks call me a person who doesn't want to hear an opinion different than my own.... no, it's the name calling. Guess it's ok if they hurt our feelings...

  11. "Lighten up, Francis."

    I would think that everyone knows the General was obviously joking since ponytails have been outlawed in the Air Force since they got rid of reciprocating engine powered aircraft. Seriously.

    Our Country has gone completely over the edge. There is no "Right" to not being offended.

    Besides, it's not like the Marines were even aware that the Air Force was even in Theater. Except for the great food delivery, medevac's, pictures at the Theater briefings, and things that mysteriously went "boom" in the night.

    This kerfluffle is the Media trying to do a hatchet piece on the good General, since they couldn't destroy him two years ago.

  12. Holy shit, an O with two Article 15s?? I'm surprised he wasn't hung from whatever the AF equivalent of the yardarm is (probably something on the golf course).

    That said, Petraeus was out of line, only because he's the the commander of a COCOM and was speaking in a public place. The way I look at it is to reverse the roles: put an AF general in command of a COCOM (an academic exercise to be sure, since the day an AF general commands a COCOM other than STRATCOM or TRANSCOM will be a cold day in hell) and have him make a joke about Marines being dumb or some such. You'd never hear the end of it and the general would be lucky to escape without being forced to resign.

    Of course, this is "different" because Gates and the rest of OSD absolutely despise the AF...things are only starting to come around because he's got his men at the top now.

    I'm all for making fun of the other services, because as you and others have mentioned it's a tradition from the day Christ was a corporal, but only at the appropriate time and place...I think the Navy CWO in one of my classes down here probably got at least 5 or 6 variants a day on the "So you're in the's sex with men?" joke. However, the AF has got over 22,000 people deployed doing Army jobs (JETs, formerly known as ILOs...I don't like how they're making them sound less temporary) not to mention everyone else we've got deployed doing their actual jobs, like SN1. Making fun of that just isn't what a COCOM should be doing.

    The real irony here is that everyone on the AF side who is getting the vapors over this is just further feeding into the stereotype that Petraeus was making fun of in the first place.

  13. Forgot to mention, I think one of the best interservice jokes I've read was the one comparing the enlistment oaths between the five services (even the Puddle Pirates get some love in this one). I won't repeat the whole thing, (here's a link) but in light of Marines being stupid I figured I'd post the Marine portion of it:

    "I, (pick a name the police won't recognize), swear...uhhhh...high-and-tight...grunt...cammies...kill...fix bayonets...charge...slash...dig...burn...blowup...ugh...Air Force wives....air strikes...yes SIR!...whiskey...liberty call...salute...Ooorah Gunny...grenades..women...OORAH!

    So Help Me Chesty PULLER!"

    Thumb Print
    XX _________________________________
    Teeth Marks

  14. Cynthia: In your case the trolls are being hurtful not only to you, but to parents, siblings, and other relatives of the people you tend to post about. You're right to kick their asses to the curb.

    Darryl: There are more than a few Marines who are both aware of, and grateful for, those USAF A-10s and AC-130s overhead. Not all Marine CAS is organic, especially in The 'Stan.

    I don't agree with your media theory... as far as I know the MSM haven't picked up on this kerfluffle at all. Time did a short bit on it yesterday (a pretty good article, btw), but a Google News search only returns four hits, and one of them is from the Air Force Times. The article I cited was in Air Force Magazine, a quasi-professional journal with limited scope/readership.

    Mike: Good points, all... especially your last about the ironic effect. I grudgingly accept the fact The Man (that would be ANY "Man," as you so ably illustrated) should be more careful with his remarks, but ONLY grudgingly. It's still too damned politically correct for my liking.

    And yeah... I've seen the "Oaths of Enlistment" thing before. Good one!

  15. Heh. I like the joke.

    He does seem to be wearing enough glitter to blind anyone within speaking distance. They do give out a lot of ribbons these days for good hygiene and proper flossing. I know, because I got the one for hygiene and not the one for flossing. I was not a heavily beribboned zoomie.

    And, in fact, I got an Article 15 for missing a safety briefing. Worse, I missed it because my station chief told the person who was to relive me so I could go, not to bother--the chief would take care of it. He didn't, and I got the NJP.

  16. And I nearly got another one for wearing the wrong boots. At Grand Forks AFB, there's a lotta snow. Our unit was not issued mukluks, because we were indoor pussies or something. I had slipped more than once wearing my standard issue boots, so I had a pair of dark blue moon boots that I wore from my car into the building, where I would change into the standard issue.

    One day I forgot I had them on, and stopped at the big nuke-proof cube (missile wing HQ) to talk to a friend. He saw them, recognized the problem, and tried to hustle me out via the back stairs...where we met the base commander coming up.

    I explained my reasons, and his aide took my name. I got a letter of reprimand only because my unit commander was on leave and our 1Lt wing weather officer didn't want to do all the paperwork for an Article 15.

    On the bright side, three weeks later we were issued mukluks.

  17. Buck,
    I think you missed my subtle humor when I said,

    "... Except for the great food delivery, medevac's, pictures at the Theater briefings, and things that mysteriously went "boom" in the night."

    Of course everyone knows the great work the Air Force does, especially the folks on the ground.

  18. Gordon sez: I was not a heavily beribboned zoomie.

    Nor I... I had nine ribbons on my blouse when I retired (see my sidebar). SN1 had TEN ribbons on his blouse as an E-4... he now has 16 as a captain (once again, see my sidebar for links to the pics) and has probably added a couple more in the year or two since his last official pic. It's beyond crazy and a Hot Button of mine.

    Your boot story boggles the mind.

    I have a boot story of my own, which involved me going head to head with my First Sergeant back in '82... we were both MSgts, but as First Shirt he outranked me.

    The Reader's Digest version is that I refused to wear my combat boots with fatigues on his little monthly "let's play war" day... I wore my low quarters, which were authorized for office workers in fatigues. I was probably lucky I didn't get an Article 15, as well... but my commander refused to act on the shirt's recommendation for disciplinary action, saying "You two work this out between yourselves. But don't forget Buck, Carl IS The Shirt." I was one of my commander's direct reports (as one of two enlisted department chiefs... Programs in my case, Logistics/Maintenance was the other), btw... putting me at about the same level as The Shirt on the org chart. And "Carl" was also a bona fide dickhead, in addition to being First Sergeant.

    I got away relatively clean in that lil scrape. As a face-saving measure Carl made me come in to his office on Saturday morning ("extra duty") dressed in the "uniform of the day," complete with combat boots.

    Darryl: My apologies; I DID miss your humor. It's hard to be subtle in print, which is why I use smileys... It's the ONLY reason I use 'em, actually... mainly coz I can be a real sarcastic SOB most of the time, believe it or don't. :D


Just be polite... that's all I ask.