Thursday, February 25, 2016

Day One Thirty Six, Influence: Buzz Moseley

When Gen. T. Michael "Buzz" Moseley stepped down as Air Force chief of staff on August 1, 2008, troops lost a leader who gave everything he had to America's airmen. I wrote about nuclear accidents, Moseley's advocacy for the F-22 Raptor (and other robust systems)—and about his firing by Defense Secretary Robert Gates—in my book "Air Power Abandoned." Get a signed copy direct from me or find it for your Kindle.

Fighter pilot
Moseley is a fighter pilot and combat commander who rose to the top and was at ease among Washington bigwigs. He loves the Air Force and its traditions and is comfortable among airmen of all ranks.

On a ceremonial visit to France in May 1977, Moseley took along a contingent of crew chiefs and relatively junior pilots. He could have spent most of that trip hobnobbing with big shots. He chose to spend much of his time rapping with staff sergeants and captains. An affable man who drew genuine pleasure hanging out with the troops, Moseley enjoyed reminding airmen that they are part of history, part of something bigger than themselves.

In the end, Moseley was never able to spend enough time with the troops. Some of his efforts went awry, like an Airman's Creed that is all but incomprehensible. He might have had more time for everyday airmen if the nation hadn't been caught up in two wars and if the Air Force weren't feeling the strain from being in continuous combat since 1991.

Moseley wanted a new service dress uniform. Many liked the idea. More, it seemed, thought it was a waste of money while Americans were in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I've witnessed the evidence that Moseley was right in wanting airmen to look more military. I watched a tourist in a hotel ask for directions from an Air Force colonel, in the belief that the colonel was a bellhop.

Moseley's critics didn't get it. The fact is, it costs very little more to introduce new service dress attire than to continue using the existing uniform. The chief's proposed change is apparently dead now, and we are the poorer for it.

Also dead is Moseley's plan to merge aircraft maintenance into flying squadrons. In part because of his sense of history and of how things were done in World War II, Moseley wanted crew chiefs and pilots closer to one another. Maintenance officers opposed the plan because it intruded on their turf. As with the dress uniform, Moseley was right and his critics were wrong.

Moseley's wanted to recapitalize the Air Force. Who could argue against that, when our average aircraft is now 24 years old, compared with 8 during the Vietnam era? His belief in the need for a new air refueling tanker was heartfelt and powerful.

Moseley also pushed hard for a new combat rescue helicopter and recused himself from the selection. Years later, we still have neither the tanker nor the helicopter.

To his credit, Moseley spent his tenure making the case that airpower is the decisive force in warfare and that the Air Force is a fighting service, not an appendage to the ground combat branches.

Critics may argue that Moseley's reach exceeded his grasp---that he leaves office with too many goals unfulfilled. But in my view, Moseley is a visionary who was right most of the time. Those who follow him have a high standard to meet.

Moseley had every right to leave his duties with his head high. We are all richer that he was among us.

1 comment :