Bonuses paid to retain Air Force pilots are a waste of money, a civilian pilot writes. (Senior Airman Maeson Elleman/Air Force)
I am an Army Reserve air defense officer, commonly referred to by Air Force liaison officers as “Duckhunters.” On the civilian side, I am a major airline captain/pilot of a Boeing 737 with 10,000 hours of flight time.
I admit — a rare career path that baffles my co-pilots who just separated from the Air Force. I spent $30,000 at civilian flight schools to achieve my position in life with no regrets and am making over $200,000 a year including salary, 401(k) matching and profit sharing.
I read with disgust and laughter your July 14 article [“AF fighting — with cash — to keep fighter pilots”] concerning the misguided bonus scheme.
It seems the Air Force is wasting our tax money in two areas: initial pilot training costs and retention bonuses. Why does it cost the Air Force $9 million to train a new pilot when someone like me can do it for $30,000 plus the airlines spending $75,000 training me on the specific aircraft I have been hired to fly? I would say it is time for the Air Force to think out of its wasteful government bureaucratic box and find a way to drastically lower pilots’ costs so it will not be tempted to justify these crazy $225,000 bonuses to its pilots.
Also, civilian-trained pilots are just as good, if not better, than Air Force-trained pilots. The major advantage civilian pilots have is that we are used to dealing with airline unions, customers, the Federal Aviation Administration and civilian air traffic control. I urge the Air Force Times to investigate the washout rates of major airline pilots and compare flying backgrounds. The $9 million investment our taxpayers have per Air Force pilot in training costs may not prove to be all it is cracked up to be.
Please stop wasting $74 million a year on retention bonuses for Air Force pilots, Air Force. It is a needless program. If your pilots want to stay, let them do it for God, country and job security, not to justify your exorbitant training costs and your delusions of a pilot shortage.
Army Reserve Lt. Col. James Breazeale
DON'T FORGET COAST GUARD
Reading the informative commentary by Marine Gen. John F. Kelly [“Drug war at a turning point,” July 14], in which he clearly describes the challenges and strategy needed to combat the transnational organized crime network, I noted that “in stemming the flow of illegal narcotics” he cited “heroic and often underappreciated law enforcement professionals like the [Drug Enforcement Administration], FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol and Treasury Department.”
He also identified “the primary facilitator” in that task as Joint Interagency Task Force-South.
I am certain that the good general is well aware of the critical role played by the Coast Guard (beginning even before JIATF-S and U.S. Southern Command) in the maritime interdiction of illegal narcotics, which continues today, and that JIATF-S is commanded by Coast Guard Rear Adm. Steve Mehling — who continues in the unbroken string of Coast Guard leadership of that agency since its inception more than 20 years ago.
Perhaps the Coast Guard’s significant contributions are so obvious that he assumed everyone is well aware and knowledgeable; but he should have included recognition where appropriate. Marines and Coasties have a long history of mutual respect, and in this instance, he blew it.
Coast Guard Vice Adm. Howard B. Thorsen (ret.)
WHERE TO PLACE LOYALTY
I respectfully disagree with a point Navy Rear Adm. Margaret “Peg” Klein made in her interview regarding loyalty to command as the key reference point to steer one through an ethical challenge [“Loyalty to command should guide military, ethics chief says,” July 7 issue].
Often it is the command climate or culture that is at the heart of unethical behavior. One may be pushed into the ethical gray space by command pressure (e.g., metrics or suspenses) or one is witness to others, perhaps the command staff, working outside of the rules with impunity.
When we raise our hands to serve, we swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. We do not swear allegiance to a service, commander or politician. It is to the Constitution, and hence, the American people where our loyalties lie. Inspectors general and legislative overseers have a job to do. One should not hesitate to use them, and they are to ensure there is no command reprisal.
Lt. Col. David Hoopes,
Commander, AFROTC Detachment 415,
Professor of Aerospace Studies, University of Minnesota