Friday, May 06, 2005

USAFA Holy Rolling

Who gave the AF Gens the gun to shoot themselves in the foot on this one? AFV does a credible job of getting the "religious scandal" into perspective, but a few comments from my point of view.

First...stoooopid to let any collegiate academic institution in to evaluate any of the service academies. Geez, there is only one conclusion they will reach...the academies are overly disciplined and too right wing...including religiously. Dumb move. Get some USAF chaplains, some Navy Chaplains, some ruler wielding priests from catholic institutions, whatever, but not straight collegiate academicians. No win you have to comply with their recommendations, or you are whitewashing it...hard place to be...better to not get there in the first place.

Secondly, USAFA has had a string of scandals that they haven't particularly handled too the extra scrutiny is going to come...sad, but true. So, any excursion...sexual, abusive, religious, is going to attract an increased, and often unnecessary level of attention. I don't know the staff there currently, but their mission should be to stay beneath the radar screen, on all accounts, for several years. They have almost continually failed to get a Commandant in there that can do that. What they need is a string of years, with NO excursions, just to get back to the regular breathing room that most other institutions enjoy. Until they can do that...welcome to your world for the foreseeable future.

As for the Bible pushing...I don't doubt that it happened. There have been several times where local or higher unit commanders have tried to push their expectations about religiousness down to us heathen masses. It is wrong. Peer to peer, have at may get some converts, maybe not. But top down proselytizing is off limits...particularly in an environment where hundreds of young, impressionable future officers are receiving their training. These evangelical cadets may come to see themselves as players on the "General's team," and subsequently more special than cadets with other beliefs. All of the academies, including the private ones, are ripe for the growth of secret or "special" groups, which in the end have a wholly detrimental effect on the officers they create and the services they serve. There is no need to encourage this behavior by an over-enthusiastic endorsement of a particular brand of religion, or by creating a "special" or extra-ordinary bond between members of one particular religion, to the exclusion of others. This kind of "tribe" bonding within larger units is a killer on unit cohesion, and it builds distrust from members outside the groups. Frankly, if this occurred in any fashion, and I believe it did, sign of very poor, while maybe religious, leadership. No excuse.

USAFA needs to still the waters, and keep them still for a very long time, if they want the maneauver room they long for. This will take calm, even leadership for the extended future, AND unfortunately, a deft handling of this current situation.

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