This came in the mail
A few days ago on February 28, 2006 the United States Air Force announced that on recommendation of the 97th Uniform Board that the Air Force Good Conduct Medal is immediately discontinued. No explanation was provided.
A day later the United States Air Force published a news release informing a 27-year Air Force General was retiring as a Colonel after electing to receive nonjudicial punishment rather than face possible criminal conviction resulting from Courts Martial.
The coincidence of Brig. Gen. Richard S. Hassan, retirement resulting from significant misconduct and a similar no significant accountability retirement of the Air Force's top lawyer, Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Fiscus, last year and the elimination of the Air Force Good Conduct Medal without explanation impose on me a great need to express an opinion pertinent to moral competencies and organizational core values. One thing certain about my opinion, it is unlikely the Air Force will include my writings on any of its must read lists.
It's most peculiar the first award and decoration the Air Force decided to eliminate due to lack of being valued and useful is the AF Good Conduct Medal. I certainly wait for the reason for such decision as I'm unaware of the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard eliminating their good conduct medals.
Each of the military departments have and award the Good Conduct Medal for similar reasons, however and specifically the AF Good Conduct Medal is awarded to personnel in an enlisted status for "exemplary conduct" (exemplary behavior, efficiency, and fidelity), while in active military service. Individuals must demonstrate a positive attitude toward the Air Force and their jobs.
The Air Force Good Conduct Medal is an enlisted only decoration and the Air Force's "Little Blue Book" of organizational core values certainly makes it clear the occurrence of lapse in integrity is more likely to result from bad policies and programs than it is to be symptomatic of any flaws in character of individuals. So most reasonable people can presume from lack of any official explanation for the discontinuing of this medal certainly-so indicates it was done so to fix or improve something unique to enlisted members of the United States Air Force.
Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do. These are the Air Force's core organizational values and award of the Air Force Good Conduct Medal is directly pertinent to providing the discretion of recognizing and identifying noncompetitively all enlisted members of the Air Force that provide example of what constitutes good moral and ethical behavior.
As with all awards and decorations, approval and award of the Air Force Good Conduct medal results from deliberated decision of the enlisted member's commander. Consequently something unwanted or undesirable is giving Commanders the need to fix policy, procedure and process specifically pertinent to the Air Force Good Conduct Medal. Something is being fixed, but what is broken is either the conduct, behavior, and performance standard determining eligibility for the AF Good Conduct Medal or commanders allowing mediocrity into the recommending and approval decision process. This certainly makes one wonder how eliminating the Good Conduct Medal implements change for the better good and improved ethics to do right in the enlisted personnel of the Air Force.
Classes on ethics and core values reinforced merely through inconsistent accountability and punishment is an incomplete answer. The Good Conduct Medal was put in place because prior to the all-volunteer military, enlisted members either voluntarily enlisted or were involuntarily conscripted (Drafted) into serving an active duty military obligation. The change to an all volunteer military did not implement any test and observation for integrity during the recruitment and enlistment process and many individuals of flawed character become enlisted members of the Air Force. Most are discovered during the first entry into active duty enlistment and are allowed to easily separate with honorable discharges because it's easier and cheaper than holding accountability to the Air Force's core organizational values and giving the appropriate General under honorable conditions discharge or less than honorable discharge. However this does not eliminate all who are morally and ethically weak from entering into second and subsequent enlistments. Doing away with the Air Force Good Conduct Medal with no replacement recognition mechanism and standard for sustaining good behavior is sliding down the slippery slope of decreasing ethics and integrity.
There is a precept in the military concerning leadership that artificially relies on each according to education and each according to high moral character and qualification. In these ways and also that each individual must be a volunteer rather than a conscript is how members of the commissioned grades differ from the members of the enlisted grades. Commissioned members also have to complete a commissioning training program that does give the military departments the opportunity to weed out those of flawed character before an appointment to a commission grade is given. However official Air Force misconduct and other involuntary attrition data reveals flawed character problems are as much a problem in the commissioned grades as it is in the career enlisted population. News releases also clearly indicate the accountability for misconduct is not equal to the consequences imposed on the enlisted members. Commissioned officers facing non-judicial punishment or other misconduct accountability have the opportunity to resign their commission and separate with an Honorable discharge and commissioned officer who are retirement eligible are often reduced in grade and allowed to retire with an Honorable discharge.
The Air Force certainly believes if complacency, mediocrity, and compromise exist it results from of bad policies and programs than it is to be symptomatic of any character flaws in the civilian, enlisted, and officer personnel of the Air Force. Consequently, it is reasonable to conclude top Air Force leadership believes eliminating the Air Force Good Conduct is part of necessary fix in policy, procedure, and processes to improve the moral competencies of the civilian, enlisted, and commissioned personnel of the United States Air Force, but how this is to happen remains undisclosed.
The Air Force Good Conduct Medal isn't the greater accountability and integrity failure present in the award and decoration system. There are several other 'give-me I-deserve to look like a hero ribbons and medals' officers and enlisted are awarded without audit against the minimum standard that need complacency, mediocrity, and compromise fixed if not completely eliminated. The best example is perhaps the Global War on Terrorism-Service GWOT-S) Medal.
The standard for the GWOT-S indicates for services members performing duties and tasks contributing to accomplishing operational activities or in direct support of operational activities. The audit accountability is the commander who verifies the military member's entitlement. Unfortunately, if one can believe the claims posted on many military forums the standard in the Air Force has become the cauldron of validation that turns any and every trainee that breathes air for 30-days after graduating from Basic Military Training into a War on Terrorism hero. The GTOW-S eligibility standard however expects being there doing something operationally or directly supporting operations. Being a student clearly does not seem to meet the criteria.
I and probably many others certainly believe if the expectation is all serving in the Air Force have good conduct, then the Honorable Discharge is the evidence of having good conduct. Unfortunately Air Force commanders have allowed mediocrity into this standard and even worse allow legal trickery to be used by many commissioned officers to avoid punitive and character of service accountability by allowing Honorable Discharge and full military retirement. The issues is not the discontinuance of the Air Force Good Conduct Medal but rather talk by top Air Force Leadership valuing integrity, good conduct, and being there as expected doing and accomplishing the mission is not being backed up with proper action and accountability. The Air Force Good Conduct Medal is the symptom, not the problem. Suddenly for some reason I do value the Air Force Good Conduct Medals that were awarded me during my 23-year career.
posted by Steve @ 4:18:00 PM