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January 04, 2011

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From my personal experience as an Air Force officer, I can assure you that the armed forces sanction and reward conformity and actively discourage self-determination. Cadets are taught that professionalism is good, and that careerism (planning the details of one’s military career) is bad, but in practice the officer that does not carefully plan his career by attending to all of the prescribe milestones at the appropriate times is likely to be cast out without regard to his abilities or dedication to the service.

In the Air Force, the officer must meet certain milestones by certain dates if he is to continue in service. There are volumes of regulations that provide for this. If the officer wants to take time off to pursue other interests, he risks his career and the prospect of receiving a pension at the end. The Air Force wants fulltime officers who have no outside life in the civil community for the duration of their careers. The Air Force wants to be a separate culture apart from the culture that it is constituted to serve.

Mr. Kane - I just finished reading your exceptional article and wanted to thank you for putting it together. My jaw dropped at your "market alternative" for assignments. It's something I have been talking about (and pining for) for a while now.

If there were any possible criticism I would levy, it's that the personnel systems and practices are not unique to the Army...and leadership in other services may dismiss your article because they see it as "an Army problem".

So long as we all operate under DOPMA, it's an "everyone problem".

An academy degree, particularly a technical degree, coupled with a cadet that graduated at the top of the class, is much more valued in the private sector than in the military. Once you get a boss that rates you that is less talented and less interested in your potential, it becomes an easy decision to leave the military for greener pastures.

Well written and thought provoking. I look forward to reading the report from your study. Thank you, Walter

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