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Letters from airmen on the re-enlistment debate

Jun. 9, 2014 - 01:58PM   |  
Staff Sgt. Aaron Driver said that, in writing about why he doesn't plan to re-enlist, he wanted to spark a conversation about the burdens all airmen bear. Readers continue the conversation here.
Staff Sgt. Aaron Driver said that, in writing about why he doesn't plan to re-enlist, he wanted to spark a conversation about the burdens all airmen bear. Readers continue the conversation here. (Courtesy Aaron Driver)
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[Regarding “It doesn’t have to be miserable,” May 19 issue]:

I agree with what Staff Sgt. Aaron Driver had to say. While I was in the service, I had to deal with some of the same issues, and I think it’s time that the Air Force changes.

Most Air Force Instructions have so much grey area they are open to interpretation to the reader. For example, AFI 36-2903, on Air Force dress and appearance: I may read the paragraph in regards to growing facial hair one way, but someone else can read it and believe it another way. As Driver stated, he thought his mustache was in regulation, but his first shirt believed differently. Most AFIs are so broad or unclear this happens all the time.

Another issue is the unwritten rules. As a supervisor in the Air Force, I had to write Enlisted Performance Reports. There is an AFI for that, too. I once tried to write an EPR according to the AFI, but, nope, can’t do that because the “unwritten rules” say you can’t do that. You want to me follow the AFIs but don’t follow the AFIs at the same time?

If you do ever try to speak up, as Driver mentioned, you either get the answer “Deal with it” or “Suck it up.”

Former Staff Sgt. Grant Carter

Tucson, Arizona

I’m a crusty old master sergeant who has been retired from my active-duty Air Force career for almost 38 years. Given the opportunity, I would do it all over again.

The only guarantee I was given was three squares a day (on tin trays) and field kitchens with C-rations and a rack to sleep in (but only in the barracks double-decked with 120 troops per bay in old two-story World War II buildings).

After a 23-year active-duty career and a 25-year civil service career, all Air Force, it has been a rewarding retirement for my years of service.

As I have been reading my Air Force Times for the past several months regarding career service by this generation, I wonder how they would have survived what those of us in previous generations had to endure. I once had a first sergeant tell me if the Air Force wanted me to have a wife, it would have issued one. It takes a special woman and family to put up with a career airman. My career took precedence over my family, but they endured.

I remember when I was a specialty training instructor volunteer and no special duty pay was provided. My only thought was I desired the opportunity to be an instructor and make a difference in a young airman’s life.

I went through an intensive interview with my commanding officer to convince him that I felt I could be a benefit to the young trainees based on my experience (10 years service) and my experience as an on-the-job trainer and supervisor in upgrade training. I was a young buck sergeant (now referred to as senior airman) and convinced him that I could be the best instructor the Air Force could ever have.

The incoming trainees used to ask who the instructor was for their training and when my name was mentioned they would say that guy is the toughest instructor in the school.

But by the end of training, they found me to be fair but firm and thanked me for helping them become a good specialist in their career field.

Some years later, after retirement from active duty, I was told by a young airman that when he went through boot camp, if he didn’t like how his training instructor was treating him, he could call a “time out.”

My response to that was if he had been in Korea or Vietnam in my outfit and he tried pulling that on me, he definitely would have felt the butt end of my M1 or M16. There is no time for questioning orders when directed to do something when you are under fire.

I once challenged my first sergeant who happened to be a former Marine when I was assigned to technical training after boot camp. Boy, was that a mistake.

He took me out behind the barracks and there were only two blows — when he hit me and when I hit the ground. I went back and did what I was told and never questioned him again.

He called me into the orderly room just prior to the completion of my training and told me that I had gained his respect but be careful whenever you decide to challenge an order. I thanked him and told him he taught me a lesson that I would carry with me the rest of my Air Force career.

I believe that most young airmen have a positive view of the Air Force, whether it will only be a first term or a career.

They have been doing a fine job no matter where their assignments take them and they have families that support them.

There are negatives in any career but I feel the positives far outweigh the negatives. As far as any negative aspects that gave me concern was when I didn’t get the backing from my superiors and was told that I had to be a little more understanding and not be so hard on my subordinates. So at that point it was time for this crusty old master sergeant to put in my papers and say goodbye to a career that I was proud of.

I am proud to have worn the uniform of a career airman, and I’m certain there are others who will always have the same positive thoughts. I applaud TSgt Christopher Bauchle [“Why I did re-enlist,” May 19 issue] and certainly feel as he does that when I retired I left a positive impression and gained the respect from those that I served with, both subordinate and superiors.

May God bless all of our troops who put their lives on the line, for without their devotion to duty, honor and country, we wouldn’t have the freedom that we all enjoy.

Master Sgt. James Elliott (ret.)

Ellijay, Georgia

After reading this follow-up article pertaining to why Staff Sgt. Aaron Driver will not re-enlist, I think it says a lot about him as an individual and a noncommissioned officer.

So many people submitted negative comments, but he told the truth. He didn’t state patriotism as one of his reasons for enlisting, and he was raked over the coals for it.

If anyone were to conduct a survey among today’s young airmen, they would most likely state they joined for education benefits, medical benefits, travel opportunities and possibly retirement.

Master Sgt. Rick Lasnier (ret.)

Goldsboro, North Carolina

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