Friday, February 13, 2009

But I Feel Good About Myself

Since I'm retired Air Force I get news bulletins every once in a while keeping me abreast of changes in my military life if my prior military life were current instead of past. So I got this bit of news yesterday.

The Air Force has reinstated its Good Conduct Medal for exemplary service by enlisted airmen...

I must have missed the notice that said the Air Force did away with the Good Conduct Medal. This was a worthless medal as are most of the decorations and ribbons the military loves to encrust chests with.

The Air Force Uniform Board announced Feb. 6, 2006, that the Good Conduct Medal would no longer be awarded. It was thought at the time that the award was not needed because nearly all Airmen are exemplary performers.

They should have done that a couple of decades ago. This medal became more and more meaningless after the 1960's and 70's as tolerance levels decreased in the Air Force. Back then, as a cop, if I was busted for smoking pot I would've lost my security clearance and been retrained into another career field. A driving while intoxicated offense was not a career breaker. I don't mean to imply that these offenses aren't noteworthy or punishable, just that the response to them gradually ratcheted up. So in the 70's you were allowed to stay in the Air Force but you didn't get a Good Conduct Medal since you screwed up. Nobody noticed when you had one, but they sure did notice if it was missing. It broadcasted "I screwed up" to everyone. By the 1990's, as a minimum you were either kicked out with lost benefits or denied reenlistment. So essentially, everyone who stayed was exemplary and got the medal every three years. As standards tightened up fewer people did not get the medal and those that didn't were marked. But if everybody gets one, does it mean anything? Not really. In response to the question, "What'd you do to get that?" most people answered, "I didn't screw up."

Meanwhile, the other armed services continued to award Good Conduct Medals to their enlisted members, said Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, chief of the Air Force's manpower, personnel and services directorate.

Airmen -- who often serve in war zones alongside their Army, Navy, and Marine Corps counterparts as part of the joint-force team -- also deserve recognition for their good service, General Newton said.

No fair! How come they get one and we don't? I reckon it's tough to come up with a better reason for having a medal whose presence is only notable when it's absent.

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