Col John Walker at Incirlik Air Base Delivers Outstanding Response to Mikey Weinstein
On October 6th, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein demanded the US Air Force “visibly punish” LtCol Michael Kersten for saying Jesus Christ affected his decisions during an official interview.
On October 13th, Col John Walker, the Air Base Wing Commander at Incirlik and LtCol Kersten’s boss, responded with the following, as publicized by Weinstein:
13 October 2016
Dear Mr. Weinstein,
I have received your letter and want to thank you for your concerns regarding our service members here at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
The Air Force places the highest value on the rights of its personnel in matters of religion and facilitates the free exercise of religion by its members. Our Airmen are sworn to protect our rights and liberties as Americans, including the right of all Airmen to practice their religious faith or to practice no faith at all.
JOHN C. WALKER, Colonel, USAF
The first paragraph acknowledges the sender without either specifying the concern or implying any legitimacy to it.
If the second paragraph sounds familiar, it should: It’s boiler plate response to a question of religious liberty in the Air Force. With the exception of the word “our,” the second paragraph was publicized verbatim in response to the IG complaint regarding retired SMSgt Oscar Rodriguez just recently.
Mikey Weinstein was not happy. He was so upset, in fact, that despite his quarter-million dollar salary as the only paid employee of his own charity, he handed the duty of responding to the Colonel to one of his “people,” volunteer Tobanna Barker. Barker’s response essentially repeated the first letter, with the addition of a whining tone wondering why the Air Force didn’t do as Mikey demanded:
Your letter is the equivalent of a signed glamour shot sent by a celebrity to everyone who writes to them, regardless of the content of the correspondence.
That’s clever — and pretty accurate. Barker seems to be genuinely unaware that the Air Force was under no obligation to respond to Mikey Weinstein at all, much less do precisely as he demanded. The Air Force treated the complaint from Mikey Weinstein just like it would “fan mail” from anyone else — ‘Thank you for your interest in national defense. Have a nice day.’
Well played, Air Force.
Col Walker was under no compulsion to answer Weinstein at all, and a second letter repeating the demand isn’t likely to generate a more favorable response. The answer Col Walker did graciously provide was exactly the kind of response that has been recommended here for years — as well as the response recommended by the Air Force’s own guidance.
It does not lend legitimacy to Weinstein or his vendetta. It does not indicate he has special access to military leadership. It does not act as blood in the water to engender more attacks from him.
In fact, it gives Weinstein no where to go — literally. The response was clearly coordinated with higher headquarters, meaning the Air Force is on to him. He’s done.
And that brings on the second truism: Ignore Mikey Weinstein, and he’ll go away — just like he did when he was ignored after complaining about the “God bless” sign in Hawaii and the crusaders at Fort Rucker.
As a notable aside, the original article that generated Mikey Weinstein’s complaint remains online, unedited and without any unnecessary — or bias-inducing — disclaimers or qualifiers.
Col Walker deserves a round of applause for getting right what so many have gotten wrong.
Perhaps now Incirlik Air Base can get back to fighting the war.