The Increasingly Impersonal Air Force
Over the years the United States Air Force has changed. Everything changes, nothing is safe from the fluidity of time. The United States Air Force is the #1 super power in Air Power in the world (Top 10 Strongest Air Forces of the World, 2011), yet they are slowly becoming impersonal towards it's Airmen for a lot of reasons.
Where do we get our orders?
Modern technology and especially electronic messaging has increased the speed at which everyone can get information, but at what cost? Every Airmen has an E-mail created for them. Information is funneled down from leadership to each person. Bosses can give orders the Airmen they never see, because they may be on different shifts. Generals from thousands of miles away can give orders within seconds. The bosses you get these electronic orders from lose their face-time through this system, and it can feel at times like you are taking orders from a mechanical overlord. Electronic messaging can be a wall that weak people use to give orders that they are afraid to give in face-value, and people can lose respect for those that do this. Gone are the days of regular shop meetings and now are the days of loads of reading orders to yourself in your own internal voice. If you read these orders and not understand them, it may be too late to wait for a reply with answers. Telephone responses could work to resolve this, this wouldn't be a problem if the Air Force were not a 24/7 force and that some Airmen need to sleep. The technological age has brought many conveniences, but at the cost of self-accountability. If an Airmen does not receive an E-mail or act on it correctly, they could be reprimanded with an article 92 for failure to obey a lawful order (Powers, R.). There is even a regulation for proper creation of e-mails, that Airmen can be reprimanded for, if they format an E-mail incorrectly (AFH 33-337, The Tongue and Quill). There is simply too much information coming at Airmen on a daily basis to process. There are even reports of fatigue in the intel community because of information overload (Leaders monitor burnout among intel analysts)
Computer Based Training
The average Airmen is completely over-saturated with self-learning through computer based training. Over the past 10 years the Air Force has shifted to push the responsibility of training to an impersonal medium. Instead of hiring teachers and knowledgeable professionals, they have created click-to learn training modules for just about everything. There is no accountability that these people are actually learning anything, beyond 10 question end of course quizes that can be taken over and over until the right answers are eventually gotten. Continual training is done on annual and semi-annual basis at the responsibility of the individual and a group of managers that make sure the clicking has been complete. By the end of a year, an average airmen will have completed dozens of these CBTs and collected a portfolio of certificates. There is no standardization in most places for when these items are to be completed besides the usual "get it done before you bust a due date" mentality. Many career fields are shifting away from classroom settings for upgrade training and skill level accreditation to computer based courses that are similar to online classes with slideshows and self-proctored end of course exams. There is a push for "efficiency" with CBTs with the possible loss of quality of training.
Death by Slideshow
The infamous phrase "Death by slideshow" has become more and more prevalent in the last couple years in the Air Force. If an Airmen is called to a commander's call or a any kind of meeting, they are doomed to have to sit through a myriad of slides in a never ending chant of "Next slide!" from the presenter. The days of inspirational speeches from leadership has become a rarity, if it is not accompanied by a Microsoft Powerpoint presentation. Although this for of meeting is semi personal, as you have to physically be there, some of the time this is not the case. Hundreds of slides shows are e-mailed to Airmen every year that they must click through themselves. It's hard to say this is truly a personal encounter when the presenter is reading off of a slide and it feels like the computer is giving the message instead of the person. The whole encounter begs to ask the question "Why even show up at the theatre to see the slideshow, when they could have e-mailed it to us?"
All on your own now
10 Years ago the PT standards were a lot more lenient, and that is an entirely different debate (FITNESS PROGRAM - AIR FORCE INSTRUCTION 36-2905). The modern Air Force has increased PT standards while simultaneously decreased the involvement of the units to exercise Airmen. Weekly, monthly and even yearly requirements for units to mandate mandatory PT has disappeared (Air Force might eliminate mandatory PT). The physical requirement of Airmen is rested solely on themselves. Airmen are trained in Basic Military Training the requirements and way to achieve them, but the actual continual requirement to be active stops there. The mandated physical training in technical schools, before the Airmen's first assignment, has been reduced or even eradicated. When a brand new Airmen gets to their first duty section they are often met with directions like "You are advised to work-out at least 3 times a week, but it isn't tracked". Monthly Wing Run's are becoming extinct. Sure no one appreciated mandatory PT, but at least it helped motivate Airmen to be fit. Failure to maintain standards is no longer the Air Force's fault but the individual's. Physical fitness should be the responsibility of the individual to a degree, but it's hard to understand why the Air Force is so out of the loop in the process.
Still the Best Air Force in the World
Even through the smoke...
With the shift of impersonality in the air, the smoke seems to fade into small gripes and little added stress. The United States Air Force is still the best Air Force in the World, and a wonderful organization to become a member of. On a unit level there is huge pushes from commanders to maintain morale and general happiness to cope with the stress of military life. Airmen may be required a lot with technological gain and budget cuts, but they are in no shortage of help through programs and support from their peers. The anti-social network technocracy that is infecting every facet of modern Western culture has slithered into the Air Force, but it can not break the rock solid core values of Integrity, Service before Self and Excellence. Nor can it change the fraternity and wingmanship that keeps this force social and cohesive.
Do you think the United States Air Force is shifting to an impersonal environment?
AFH 33-337, The Tongue and Quill (n.d). Retrieved June 12, 2015, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/edref/afh33-337.pdf
Air Force might eliminate mandatory PT. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2015, from http://www.stripes.com/news/air-force-might-eliminate-mandatory-pt-1.95975
FITNESS PROGRAM - AIR FORCE INSTRUCTION 36-2905. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2015, from http://static.e-publishing.af.mil/production/1/af_a1/publication/afi36-2905/afi36-2905.pdf
Leaders monitor burnout among intel analysts. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2015, from http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/2014/11/22/leaders-monitor-burnout-among-intel-analysts/19397415/
Powers, R. (n.d.). Article 92Failure to obey order or regulation. Retrieved June 12, 2015, from http://usmilitary.about.com/od/punitivearticles/a/mcm92.htm
Top 10 Strongest Air Forces of the World. (2011, March 16). Retrieved June 12, 2015, from http://topyaps.com/top-10-strongest-air-forces-of-the-world