Air Force Officer Ponders Moral Fabric as Cause of Military Ills

In a surprisingly frank assessment, LtCol W.E. Gene Mattingly wrote an article entitled “The Elephant in the Room” following the sexual assault scandal and General Welsh’s order for a health and welfare inspection.

LtCol Mattingly becomes one of the few who dares to try to drill down to the root of the problem, rather than settle on addressing symptoms:

I think the problem is related more to our moral fabric than anything else.

As an Air Force, we must remain alert to what is presented as societal norms, which our Airmen may embrace, but that our Air Force simply can ill afford to embrace. We must hold ourselves to a much higher standard.

As an example, many think the core value of integrity is relative, not clear cut right or wrong. When, in fact, that portrayed as right is clearly a violation of personal integrity. Some people in our society may even chastise me for my moral high-ground stance on certain issues because it is counter to an overall societal view these days.

In short, the military reflects the society from which it is drawn — but some things accepted in society aren’t good for the military. One problem is young Air Force members entering the military with practices or ideas that are “socially acceptable” but not acceptable or conducive to the military.  Another problem is sometimes those who do try to address the root issue are dismissed for their calls to morality or — shudder — religion.

Sometimes, when “bad things” happen in the military, the conduct itself can be addressed through reactive training and discipline. Other times, though, the conduct may be a symptom of a greater problem, one rooted more deeply than can be addressed by court-martialing a single offender or giving PowerPoint briefings.