The Air Force has relieved a colonel at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, who cursed his airmen for failing to fly a training mission in dangerous conditions. Col. Gary Donovan, the commander of 552nd Operations Group at Tinker, was relieved Monday after an investigation found he had failed to promote a culture of safety and maintain a healthy climate of command, according to the leaked investigation.
“We need the men and women of the 552nd Operations Group to foster a culture of dignity and respect,” Maj. Gen. Michael Koscheski, commander of the 15th Air Force, who succeeded Donovan, said in a statement Tuesday. âThat means living by the core values ââevery day and empowering subordinate managers to promote these values ââthrough teaching, coaching and mentoring. It takes mutual respect to develop airplanes, our most valuable resource. “
The statement did not provide details of any further administrative measures taken against Donovan citing privacy concerns. It also gave no details of the Colonel’s current role or who was replacing Donovan as head of the 552nd Operations Group. It also didn’t say whether the three security probes launched in July in response to the incident were loud Air Force times, are complete.
Troubles began in early July when the Air Force crews of the 963 ‘normally used the 963’ to help them get the rest of it required by the Air Force regulations before a mission. The 963rd flies E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) jets, which are converted Boeing 707/320 aircraft with a large, saucer-shaped radome that serve as a command and control center during flight operations.
Since the missions required an unusual sleep schedule and no-go pills were not allowed, the crew appeared exhausted. They did poorly in the operational risk management test, which measured the crew’s readiness to fly, which prompted the aircraft commander to abandon the missions.
Sleep deprivation is the norm in the military, but when it comes to flying large, expensive aircraft that require a high level of concentration to fly safely, it’s a big deal. Two dozen or more highly skilled crew members work aboard an E-3 that costs $ 270 million to serve. air force Regulations require 12 hours off duty before an assignment, including time to eat, travel, and at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
âIf a pilot falls asleep on the control stick, one misses [air traffic control] Call to change altitude / course, spin early on takeoff, misjudge landing speed / angle, collide with a tanker while refueling, or make any of the other possible mistakes to avoid, that’s over 30 lives and millions of dollars in equipment gone. Forever, âan AWACS crew member told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to the press.
“And that’s just the pilot,” he said. âEvery other crew member on the aircraft has their own role in the safety of the aircraft. When an aircraft crew member is struggling to stay awake, they are not focusing on the task at hand. “
If it were a real failure, “I can guarantee that these crews will get their energy drinks of choice, taxi on the plane and fly to defend our nation,” added the crew member. âBut that wasn’t a real world. It was an exercise. They cannot replace the lives that are lost in a plane crash. “
Even so, Donovan was furious when the crew of the 963rd abandoned the mission.
âAt no point did I think I’d go in and find out that America’s Wing, the operational heartbeat of the command and control company for the free world, would show up and say, ‘I can’t carry out this mission.’ Donovan told his subordinates at a July 14 meeting, according to an audio recording first shared on the popular Facebook page Luftwaffe amn / nco / snco.
“It never crossed my mind once,” said Donovan. “I cannot express the disappointment that I am now with you.”
Col. Keven “Hitch” Coyle, commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing, said a miscommunication had occurred during Donovan’s meeting with his subordinates on July 14th. The exhausted pilots slept in the rest area of ââthe crew of the jet, Coyle said.
“During the briefing, the task force commander tried to convey to the crew that they should use this option, but this was not properly communicated.”
Coyle Also wrote a post on Wing’s Facebook page in July responding to “multiple posts on toxic leadership and allegations of a lack of safety culture.” In the post, Coyle tried to distinguish between “toxic leadership” and “intrusive leadership”.
“Toxic leaders don’t care about their subordinates, they only care about themselves … Toxic leaders abuse, belittle and humiliate teammates in order to achieve their goals,” wrote Coyle. “They are NOT the leaders of the 552!”
The Donovan story took place on social media forums like the unofficial Air Force subreddit and the Air Force Facebook page amn / nco / sncowhere Airmen could feel that the leaders of the unit did not care about the safety of their subordinates.
“I think this story grew up on social media because the AWACS community is huge,” said the anonymous crew member. “And we have all experienced something similar when we seek a mission from those who do not risk their lives.”
It also pursues an ongoing issue in the Air Force where leaders are not held accountable for their actions. Examples include the Air Force holding a Master Sergeant convicted of sexual abuse and neglect of duty; Promotion of a colonel to brigadier general despite creating the most poisonous climate of command investigators had seen in decades; and to retire a colonel while the unit he commands is under investigation for sexual harassment.
Against this background, the lack of transparency surrounding Col. Donovan’s dismissal in online Air Force forums caused frustration.
“There’s ‘Fired’ and then there’s ‘Air Force Fired’,” wrote a Reddit user in response to the news that Donovan was relieved. âHe will be transferred as the Commander’s Senior Deputy Assistant for about a year until he can be safely rehabilitated and sent to the Pentagon for duty [Air Force headquarters] somewhere.”
“Can we talk about why it took so long?” wrote Another. âThe IG report was leaked weeks ago. And let’s not forget that [wing commander] to beat publicly for him at the beginning of this whole cluster. ‘Intrusive guidance’ my ass. I have the feeling that this decision was made very hesitantly. “
In this environment, the 15th Air Force Commander, Major General Michael Koscheski, expects a âculture of dignity and respectâ.
“To develop this culture, we need all aviators who adopt this mindset and know that they are the decisive factor that makes us the largest air force in the world,” said the general in his statement.
More great stories on Task & purpose
Would you like to write for task & purpose? Find out more here and be sure to check out more great stories our homepage.