Character: Not the Views of the US Air Force

Reserve BrigGen Udo “Karl” McGregor is the US Air Force Vice Commander to the little-known Joint Enabling Capabilities Command. He has a storied career, from a helicopter mechanic as an Airman in the 1970s to the C-5 and joint billets today, logging more than 11,000 flight hours along the way.

On February 2nd, the official Air Force website published Gen McGregor’s commentary entitled simply “Character.” This was the very first line, emphasized in the original italics:

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Air Force, Defense Department or the U.S. Government.

For its part, the short article almost seemed to be a conglomeration of one-liners on character, with such nuggets as:

Character is what’s deep inside each of us, it’s who we are on a daily basis, it’s who we are when things go well and more importantly, when things go wrong…Character is our moral and ethical strength; it is who we are when no one is looking…Good character is doing the right thing because it is right to do so.

For those of us who serve in the military, we are and should be held to a higher standard than the general public.

Individual character is indeed important, particularly so in the US military. That the insitutional “character” of the Air Force would require a disclaimer on such a column is simultaneously amusing and disheartening. Conversely, perhaps it is an indicator that the “disclaimer” is to become standard fare on all personally produced articles, which would eliminate the erstwhile perception that disclaimers are only required when someone says something about Christianity (though it seems Michael “Mikey” Weinstein would claim a disclaimer is not enough to assuage such a “crime”).

(In an interesting coincidence, a slate of controversial US Marine Corps articles on vaping, transgenders, and other issues were recently reclassified as “editorials” and edited to include disclaimers after they garnered some attention, as well.)

To be fair, the Air Force focus on disclaimers isn’t technically new, though its emphasis has varied through the years. Many years ago, US Air Force Academy cadets were similarly instructed that they were required to put disclaimers on everything. One astute and sarcastic cadet dutifully complied, producing a sheet of paper with the USAFA Honor Code:

“We will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.”
**These are not necessarily the views of the US Air Force Academy.

It made the point.

It’s good that the military is permissive in allowing its members to express their thoughts and opinions, even in official forums. Regrettably, that it feels the need to blanket-disclaim every word any of them might utter may speak to an unnecessary hypersensitivity to free discussion.