Friday, February 9, 2007

Trouble at the Air Force Academy -- again

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) made an embarrassing gaffe last fall, just before the mid-terms, when he suggested those who were enlisting to join the Armed Services were those who didn't quite have the best grade point averages (GPA) in high school. It may have cost the Democrats a couple of close Senate races -- as it is they're barely hanging on with a slim majority of 51 (if you include "Independent Democrat" Joe Lieberman and Socialist Bernie Sanders).

A late report tonight at the Washington Post, however, raises some questions about the competency of those training to join the officer corps. Perhaps, their sanity. The sum of the Air Force Academy's honour code is: "We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God." This weekend, however, we learn that 28 freshmen (or "Fourth Classmen") are under investigation for cheating, 43 cadets have had their Internet privileges suspended for downloading porn, and fully nineteen percent of the freshman class were failing after the end of the first semester.

In an unusual move, all 4300 cadets have been ordered to stay on the Colorado Springs campus this weekend to give them a chance to "reflect." It's not the first time there's been a cheating ring, or the Academy has been under fire -- whether it was for sexual harrassment, or attempts by some evangelical professors to proselytize to Jewish and Catholic cadets. And the Air Force is not immune -- Navy had a similar problem with its cadets back in 1992.

My concern is that there is the almost unending "War Against Terror" going on. And while Canada is not directly involved in Iraq (except perhaps in an intelligence gathering mode, as well as enforcing the trade sanctions that still exist against the country out on the Persian Gulf), we are involved on the ground in other aspects, particularly in Afghanistan. There, as well as in other places where there is either a peacekeeping or peacemaking role, or where there is active combat, there are either joint commands or very close coordination between allied battalions or squadrons.

Imagine a friendly fire incident (and they're becoming more frequent) where the mistaken attacker turned out to be someone who had a less than exemplary record at the academy. Adding on top of the grief he or she caused would come the news they didn't have the right stuff to be inside a plane or tank to begin with. Hopefully they would have been weeded out and expelled before they could cause any damage on the battlefield -- but that doesn't always happen.

We expect only the best will be invited into the officer corps, and for a good reason: The men and women who are called upon to lead the military have other men and women who depend on their good judgment and moral character. Cheating is bad enough, but downloading porn on government time (after all, they are federal employees)? Is that where our tax money is going? Maybe it's me, but behaviour like this reflects badly not just on one's fellow students but on the military as a whole.

If this crap is going on in Colorado, I'd just love to find out the shit that's happening at RMC.

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