Simmer down, fellas

While I often appreciate the long experience and steadfast support the Air Force Association gives to its parent service, there are times when I think their antennae are a bit too finely tuned.

CENTCOM boss takes mindless shot at USAF.

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.)

— “Airpower in Action — Beyond Outrageous.Air Force magazine, 19 August 2009.

Yes, they are not the most supportive remarks, and yes they do not fill one with pride in the all-service joint team.  But they are fairly routine and emblematic of the inter-service put-downs and rivalries that get aired in every o-club of every service branch in every nation on this planet.

I am sure the guys and girls at AFA have heard plenty of Marine jokes, too.  The ones that say in not-so-subtle ways that Marines are too stupid to avoid charging headfirst into gunfire, as opposed to doing the smart thing by flanking and enfilading.  Or my personal favourite joke at the USAF’s expense, the one about golf courses being the very first facility constructed on any new expeditionary airfield.

Now, a smart person of the senior ranks would not air those jokes where the press (or his brothers and sisters in other service branches) might get wind of them.  But we’re all old and wise enough to know that they get told, nonetheless.  And in fairness to General Petraeus, he was speaking in front of an almost exclusively Marine audience.

Sometimes the best thing to do is let an insult slide and not get bent out of shape.  If the general actually believed the substance of his joke, then we would have a problem.  But I am sure he is aware of the fact that airpower is a critical factor in Southwest Asia.  The daily airlifts and medevacs, CAS patrols, tanker sorties and so on.  Take all of those away and OIF and OEF would cease to exist.  The general knows that; so relax.

Category: Aeronautics, Media  Tags: ,
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