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Darker Shades of Blue August 17, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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On my mind tonight is an article written about the factors leading to the crash of a B-52 bomber, an article that I found several years ago. The reason it shoved its way back into my mind was because I was speaking with someone about human factors, a part of what lead to the crash of the bomber.

B-52 Crash Video (launches in external site)

The video is of a B-52 H Model that crashed on June 24, 1994 at Fairchild AFB, near Spokane Washington. Part of the reason this video sticks with me is that I flew aboard that particular aircraft, about 20 years before the accident.

From 1972 thru 1976, I was a “B-52 Defensive Fire Control Technician”, a fancy term for a Tail-Gunner. That plane (identified by tail-number) was one of the ‘birds’ that flew out of the base I was stationed at for a while. Obviously, part of my interest in the video is purely selfish. I’m glad as hell I wasn’t aboard that bird when it spun into the ground, killing all aboard. However, when I first came across the video a few years back, I did a little research, trying to get some background on that particular accident. In my search, I came across an article written by Air Force Major Tony Kern, “Darker Shades of Blue – A Case Study of Failed Leadership” a paper that is used by some study groups of “Human Factors” or “Crew Resouce Management” – sort of the explaining who Murphy is in “Murphy’s Law”.

The study is useful outside of the limited scope of those courses, when you start to realize that the conclusions are applicable at every level of leadership. They are also applicable to those who follow. On board that aircraft were three other people, all who chose to follow a reckless pilot as he flew a course that would take them to their graves.

Prologue

“What’s the deal with this guy?” Captain Bill Kramer asked, indicating a car conspicuously parked in the center of the red-curbed “No Parking” zone adjacent to the wing headquarters building. It was a short walk from the HQ building, commonly referred to as The White House, to the parking lot where they had left their own vehicles while attending the briefing on the upcoming airshow. As they passed the illegally-parked car and then the various “reserved” spaces for the wing and operations group commanders, Lt Col Winslow turned to Captain Kramer, and replied, “That’s Bud’s car. He always parks there.” After a few more steps the Captain inquired, “How does he get away with that?” The Lieutenant Colonel reflected for a moment and responded, “I don’t know–he just does.” 1

It is almost impossible for me to see that, and not apply it in everyday life. It is almost equally impossible for me to see that, and not apply the lessons when I look at the current political arena.

This certainly goes a long way towards explaining the ‘success’ of George W. Bush as President, as well as explaining the success of many of his advisors; while giving room to explain the total failure of the administration that results.

The Followers

Because most of the 325th BMS personnel were standing at attention in ranks for the Change of Command ceremony, they did not personally see the violations as they occurred. Most had to rely on descriptions from family and friends. The followers were acutely aware, however, that the senior staff had a ringside seat, and therefore may not have felt the need to report or complain about a situation that their leaders had witnessed directly.

The Leaders

This time the leadership was forced to take action. The ADO (Col Capotosti) went to the DO (Col Julich) and remarked “We can’t have that, we can’t tolerate things like that, we need to take action for two reasons–it’s unsafe and we have a perception problem with the young aircrews.” 22 Evidence indicates that Lt Col Holland may have been debriefed and possibly verbally reprimanded by either (or both) the DO and wing commander. However, Lt Col Harper, the outgoing Bomb Squadron commander stated, “No overt punishment that I know of, ever occurred from that (the Change of Command flyover).” 23

Analysis

Failures in oversight, an ineffective command climate, and a lack of continuity between words and disciplinary actions earmarked the leadership response to this situation. As in the previous situation, the flyover plan was developed, briefed, and executed without intervention. The flyover for a change of command required approval by the USAF Vice Chief of Staff. 24 No such approval was requested or granted. Although the senior staff was spurred to action by the magnitude of the violations, the response appeared to be little more than a slap on the wrist, a point certainly not missed by other flyers in the wing.

We all ‘know’ what has happened in the last six years, yet very few of us were actually able to ‘witness’ the events that have transpired. Our leadership failed us when they allowed the events to happen, often unremarked by them, and now we must pay the price.

I, for one, am angry as hell. Bush is who he is, but what about the failure of the rest? Most importantly, I’m angry at all of ‘us’, the followers. For without our complicity, these people wouldn’t have been able to pull this off.

At its most acute, it is the willingness to throw away our freedoms because we are afraid of the world. For the most part, it has been our apathy, because we are so tired of the constant parade of criminal behavior that this administration has so far been able to get away with that we no longer can register surprise when they start a new campaign of criminality. At its best, it has been the few small voices that have continued to cry in the wilderness, saying that this is not right.

Maybe Helen Thomas has it right, she was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer after a White House media event featuring George Bush dodging Helen’s blunt questions. From Mz Kleen over at DailyKos

BLITZER: And you asked him a tough question. Did you accept his answer? Namely, that he didn’t come into the presidency believing he was going to go to war against Saddam Hussein, but after 9/11 his world view changed?

THOMAS: It doesn’t — it doesn’t parse. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, it certainly had — was secular, it was not tied to al Qaeda.
I think he wanted to go into Iraq because he had all the neo- conservatives advising at the top of their agenda for Project for a New American Century. First Iraq, then Iran — then Syria, then Iran, and so forth.

BLITZER: So you believe even before 9/11, he was about — he wanted to take out Saddam Hussein? THOMAS: Oh, I think this is very clear. You couldn’t sit in that press room day after day. Every time — every time it was mentioned by Ari Fleischer or Scott, they would say in one breath, 9/11, Saddam Hussein, 9/11, Saddam Hussein.

I don’t — I don’t blame the American public for thinking there was a tie.

BLITZER: So you don’t accept his answer today? You think, what, he was still spinning? Is that what you’re suggesting?

THOMAS: It wasn’t that. I think maybe in his own mind he didn’t, but I think that everybody knows, everybody who was in the know, knows that Iraq was on target, it was on the radar screen from the moment he came into office. The Treasury secretary says it, people in CIA say it, and so forth .

Nothing would deter him. It was a very big goal.

Nothing deterred him. What is deterring us?

Life and Hearts is in session. Are you ready to “Hunt the bitch?”

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Comments»

1. /blog/4574600768/Top-Macbook-Pro-Repair-in-Penang---Highly-Rated-Support-Service/5147346 - May 1, 2013

At this time I am ready to do my breakfast, later than having my breakfast coming yet again to read other
news.


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