Originally appeared at Brownstone Institute
[Lt Gen Rod Bishop USA (ret) and MG Joe Arbuckle USA (ret) assisted with this article.]
The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) rescinded the DOD’s mandatory Covid 19 vaccine policy, providing an opportunity to refocus the military on its primary responsibilities and objectives. With recruitment goals at a 50-year low and desperate hopes that the “Top Gun” sequel would regenerate the desire to serve, it serves no purpose to compound the crisis by punishing those who in good faith refused to receive an experimental vaccine.
From the outset the vaccine program has been controversial and fraught with ambiguity. Members of the armed services, who are young and healthy, bear little risk of severe disease, and the vaccine does not protect them against infection or transmission. The normal 10-year safety trial period for gene therapy products was condensed to months, and soon the mRNA vaccine garnered a higher incidence of adverse side effects than all other vaccines combined since 1990.
Efficacy questions aside, from the initiation of the DOD vaccine program in August 2021 until its conclusion in January 2023, confusion and mixed messages relating to its legality abounded within the armed services. Which vaccine product was actually administered—the FDA-approved Comirnaty version ordered by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin or the Bio-N-Tech Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) product? Unknown to most military service members, the legal Comirnaty vaccine was unavailable to the public, so in defiance of Austin’s directive, the DOD instituted a comprehensive vaccine program using the illegal EUA version.
On Jan 10, 2023 the Secretary of Defense formally annulled the vaccine mandate for members serving in the military, but failed to address the 8,100 service men and women already discharged for refusing the vaccine, 46 percent of whom received honorable discharges and 54 percent general discharge under honorable conditions. Enlisted personnel, who represent most of those separated, generally lack the financial resources and access to legal assistance to contest DOD action.
In the aftermath of the NDAA, the DOD continues to construct obstacles for those service members who have not received the Covid vaccine. In his testimony to Congress, Under Secretary of Defense Gilbert Cisneros, who launched his political career after winning the $266 million Mega Million jackpot in 2010, stated that 16,000 active duty members could be separated unless they apply for an exemption. This is not a necessary condition if the vaccine is no longer required under the new law. A Navy military separations board concluded in May 2022 that the plaintiff was within his rights to refuse vaccination without requesting an exemption, since the FDA-approved Comirnaty vaccine was not available.
In a February 2023 memo from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to Congressmen Jim Banks and Mike Rogers, Secretary Cisneros acknowledged the DOD’s intent to impose impediments to both separated and active duty personnel who refused the Covid vaccine. He cited the act of refusing to obey lawful orders and existing laws as the justification for the hardline policy.
Specifically, separated members by law with few exceptions must refund unearned bonuses and incentive pay and are not eligible for back pay. The DOD will not proactively assist members to correct records or return to active duty. The DOD will not establish a blanket waiver for those who did not request a vaccine exemption, but assess each on a laborious case-by-case basis.
Patriotism, adventure, camaraderie, and family tradition motivate men and women to risk their lives and spend long periods of time away from loved ones—all for long hours and modest pay. As this pool dwindles to dangerously low proportions, the DOD elects to fight a battle that antagonizes those who profess this ethos.
What is to be gained when at best the defense establishment will achieve a Pyrrhic victory? The DOD’s stance that the failure to comply with an order to receive a EUA vaccine with a high risk-to-benefit profile is equivalent to refusing a combat order provides further evidence of the rigid, unrealistic personnel policies promulgated by highest levels of leadership.
The lack of trust in senior military leadership has been identified as the biggest threat to national security. Disengagement from the welfare of subordinates and dishonesty are two factors which have eroded the military’s image in the eyes of the public. Recently STARRS, a military-oriented organization based on the precepts of “Ability not Appearance, Unity not Division, and Service not Self,” compiled a 24-page list of quotations, “What Military People Are Saying.”
The observations are painful to read, as the respondents give reasons why they no longer choose to serve in the military or why they would not recommend it as a career. The DOD’s mandatory Covid vaccine policy and the failure to consider religious accommodations are frequently cited.
General Colin Powell observed, “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either is a failure of leadership.”
Intransigence and the propensity to deny fault represent a command style that will not reverse the current recruiting catastrophe or the ability of the military to fulfill its mission. Soldiers, sailors, and airmen are among the nation’s most valuable assets, and they are choosing to leave the ranks or select alternate professions.
The DOD mismanaged the Covid mandatory vaccine program, which degraded morale and negatively affected recruitment goals. Now is the time to rectify these abuses and welcome rather than punish those men and women who choose to serve the country but exercised their rights under the Nuremberg Code. Exerting financial pressure, failing to offer administrative services, and ostracizing these service members will discourage enlistments and further erode the public’s confidence in the United States military.
At the age of thirty-five Dr. Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize, making him the youngest recipient in its history. Over a thousand streets around the world are named for him, and he is acknowledged by one poll as the sixth most famous person in history. But King's message of forgiveness, non-violence, reconciliation, and self-worth based on character rather than phenotype are under assault by the proponents of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and identity politics.
Recently on Martin Luther King Day, politicians and the media grandstanded and payed homage to Dr. King, all the while, during the other 364 days of the year, undermining his legacy and promoting the divisive tripe of Ibram Kendi and Kimberly Crenshaw, who preach division, victimhood, and irreconcilable racial oppression. Kendi has made a career out of one word, "anti-racism," for which he alone controls the definition. In academic circles this guaranteed his unassailable academic credentials and prompted a host of influential leaders, including the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, to add Kendi's book, How to Be an Antiracist, to the Navy's Professional Reading Program.
Kendi, who proclaimed, "Assimilation ideas are racist ideas," understands the power of language and the need to control every nuance of every word's meaning. His philosophic mentor and one of the founders of Critical Race Theory, Richard Delgado, devotes the last third of the book, Critical Race Theory,to the approved definitions of words and phrases. Words are weapons deployed against philosophical adversaries to deny them the ability to effectively communicate.
The Department of Defense abandoned Dr. King’s dream, when it imposed a culture imbued with mistrust and unyielding individualism based on racial and sexual identity. The vilification of the term “colorblind” serves as a metaphor for this radical departure from cohesiveness and mutual trust that is essential for mission readiness. The source of this illogical realignment of priorities emanates from CRT. Delgado speaks of the perversity of colorblindness and Kendi avers that colorblindness equates with racism.
All of the United States military academies have come under scrutiny for eschewing their traditional role to painstakingly avoid political involvement by implementing intensive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs and teaching CRT as legitimate political alternative rather than extension of Critical Theory and post modernism.
Recently, Lt. General Richard Clark, the Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) participated in a three part interview, where he addressed the controversial emphasis of DEI at USAFA and the publicity surrounding a preferred language tutorial that instructed cadets how to speak in accordance with DEI recommendations.
General Clark framed DEI as merely a tool to facilitate communication in an ever changing world. His portrayal of the program rests in sharp contrast with the Academy's DEI Plan that was established under Executive Order 13583 that impacts virtually every aspect of the USAFA training environment and has led some to conclude that DEI is a Trojan Horse for quotas and the inculcation of CRT into the heart of USAFA's academic program.
General Clark categorically supports DEI. Without citing specific evidence he alluded to numerous studies, most of which were conducted in the financial services industry that reported improved profitability due to inputs based on demographic diversity. It has yet to be proven whether this conclusion applies to a military environment, but this contention remained unchallenged. As with all all three parts of the interview, the interviewer’s role appeared to be the delivery of softball questions and readily agreeing with the general’s perspective.
In no portion of the interviews did General Clark acknowledge Dr. King's contributions to the military's longstanding policy of nondiscrimination, nor did he distance himself from the detrimental influence of Kendi and his allies whose misplaced activism have destroyed decades of progress in racial relations. Rather, he reminded listeners that times are changing and implied that DEI, an offshoot of theories promulgated by frustrated Marxists from the Frankfurt School, serves as the key to teaching a new generation of officers.
DEI, CRT, and the slew of accompanying critical theories are the products of fervent anti-capitalists academics who have gained a foothold into the fabric of American life. The utility of these doctrines are unproven and incongruent with a free, prosperous society. Rather than build on Dr. King's legacy, they distort it and use his reputation as a vehicle to delude and divide the public. If color blindness does not represent fairness and the anecdote to discrimination, then what's the reason for celebrating Martin Luther King Day?
Recently, Hunter Brown, a United States Air Force Academy cadet and member of the intercollegiate football team, died of a cardiac arrest while walking to class. Tragic events like these are becoming all too common. It is not acceptable to automatically regard these events as normal and categorically deny that they are not related to mRNA vaccines. Those of us in the graduate community mourn Hunter's death and extend our deep-felt condolences to his family and friends.
For over two years eminent scientists, independent investigative journalists, and skeptical free thinkers have sounded the alarm about the potential severe side effects caused by mRNA derived gene therapies. Despite ominous signals from the DMED and VAERS reporting systems and the skyrocketing incidence of cardiac arrests in young athletes, the Department of Defense, medical establishment, pharmaceutical industry, and MSM either ignored the data, messaged it, or unleashed ad hominem attacks on those who suggested a link between the two.
The press dispenses merciless criticism on physicians who do not regurgitate the party line, as if they are incapable of independent, rational thought. Only sub-specialists in the fields of virology, epidemiology, and infectious disease representing compliant academic institutions are qualified to comment and set policy. Ironically, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a physician touted for his commanding intellect, who ruled NIAID with an iron hand for 40 years and controlled billions of dollars in research grants, testified 174 times during his deposition that he could not remember the most basic Covid-related topics.
As a non-practicing orthopedic surgeon and former head of the FDA and a Pfizer board member, Dr. Scott Gottlieb's credentials were never called into question. Acceptable qualifications seem more to do with parroting approved solutions and suppressing opposing views. Dr. Gottlieb apparently attempted to compel Twitter to censor FDA Commissioner Dr. Brett Giroir for posting the audacious Tweet that natural immunity is superior to protection conferred by Covid vaccines. This blatant display of conflict of interest and unethical behavior perversely and directly affected members of the armed forces, who were compelled to receive the mRNA Covid vaccine despite being at low risk for serious disease and protected with antibodies from previous infections.
The rush to vaccine millions with mRNA based therapies was bound to expose patients to unknown risks. There is a prudent reason that the gene therapy approval process requires ten years rather than a a few months. It is impossible to identify the long term health risks of an experimental medication that is being introduced to the general population in the midst of a pandemic.
According to a non clinical, computer based model, the Lancet reported and implied that the vaccines saved 20 million lives in one year. The report has been criticized for over estimating the effectiveness of the vaccine, underestimating its adverse effects, and using inflated case infection fatality rates that have not been experienced during the pandemic. Martin Kulldorff, writing in Brownstone, analyzed randomized control trials conducted in Denmark that clearly indicate that mRNA vaccine efficacy was neutral at best.
It has been known that certain types of antibodies, the IgG4 subtype specifically, are related to aggressive tumors and may be implicated in their escape from tumor surveillance by the immune system.Until December of this year it was unclear how mRNA vaccines affected the process. In a paper published in Science Immunology authors demonstrated that patients who receive more boosters are prone to have higher levels of serum IgG4 antibodies. It is highly unusual that this antibody subtype, which suppresses the immune response, to be present at these elevated titers for prolonged periods. Further investigation is warranted to explore the mechanism of tumor progression and its relation to the mRNA vaccine.
It is unscrupulous for the Department of Defense to assume that the hundreds of thousands of vaccinated service members have not been injured due to the mRNA vaccine or put at risk of succumbing to long term diseases. Those who refused the vaccine for either medical or religious reasons require immediate restitution, and those who have received the vaccine require appropriate testing to determine if their health is in jeopardy.
Fortitudo per aspera, strength through adversity, is the motto of the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) Class of 1972. From 1968-1972 we endured intense and often brutal training that forged a permanent bond among us and taught the value of self sacrifice and loyalty. For those who have not experienced these challenges in the formative stages of life, it is nearly impossible to fathom the depth of this brotherhood. It is not surprising that 400 of the 675 surviving members of the graduating class attended our 50th year graduation reunion last month.
In Remembrance of Those Who Have Passed
As many of us approach our mid 70s, disease and accidents have taken their toll. Each loss of life diminishes us, and this sentiment was expressed eloquently in 1642 by English clergyman and poet John Donne. Donne speaks of mankind, but we classmates contend that his words equally apply to our brothers who have passed before us.
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less…
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”
50 Years Later—The Academy Takes a Different Path
America's foundational institutions are under assault. For decades the siege progressed incrementally, imperceptible to most observers. But recently the pace has accelerated, avoiding all pretense of subtlety. In the case of USAFA, activist generals serve as a vivid example of how a few influential individuals are able to implement President Obama's call to fundamentally change American society.
Nowadays, when visiting USAFA, one is impressed by the comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. Gone are the days when cadets lived under unremitting pressure and stood at rigid attention and bore the brunt of verbal abuse from upper class cadets. Uniforms are still worn, but in reality cadet life is drifting away from that of a traditional military academy and towards a liberal arts environment.
According to U.S. News’ Best College Rankings, the Academy's national ranking in the National Liberal Arts Colleges category increased from #39 to #18 from 2020 to 2022. USAFA rates #1 in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, but this distinction only applies to schools that do not offer doctorate degrees. Currently, the civilian faculty, including visiting members, comprises 42% of the academic department.
Since 2013, when Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould introduced a comprehensive Diversity and Inclusion Program (D&I) in accordance with President Obama's Executive Order 13583, the administration has led USAFA away from its historic policy of avoiding political engagement. The enactment of the program served as a harbinger of the Academy's descent into divisive issues, when the plan declared D&I a "military necessity" and "as important as academics" at USAFA.
Superintendent Gould's successor, Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria, achieved national notoriety with his handling of a racial graffiti incident directed at black cadets at the USAFA Prep School in 2017. Silveria presumed the identity of the perpetrators, condemned racism to a national audience, and vowed to expel the culprits. To the general's dismay, an inquiry found that the guilty party was one of the black cadets who was the supposed victim of the hate crime, but the damage had been done. The Superintendent had formed hasty conclusions, falsely accused innocent cadets based on predetermined assumptions, and tarnished the Academy's reputation.
Silveria's activism continued throughout his tenure. In July 2020 the USAFA football coaching staff produced a social media video supporting the Marxist organization Black Lives Matter. This was a remarkable departure from the Academy's ethos to publicly avoid politics, but Silveria did not intervene to remove the video. In the same month, in a letter to the Academy Family, he insinuated that systemic racism existed at USAFA. He directed that an investigation be completed within two months—the results of which are still confidential. A Freedom of Information Act request by STARRS, an organization pledged to resist racism and radical agendas in the military, to divulge the report's contents remains unanswered after more than 700 days. Judicial Watch has sued the U.S. Department of Defense to release the document to the public.
Silveria retired in 2020 but left his replacement, Lt. Gen. Richard Clark to contend with 250 cadets involved in the largest cheating scandal in USAFA history that occurred during the final months of his tenure. As Superintendent Clark dealt with his predecessor's problems, he continued his own activist agenda. He supported a required reading program for incoming cadets that included George Takei's anti-American screed, They Called Us Enemy. Lynn Chandler-Garcia, a professor in the political science department, publicly acknowledged teaching Critical Race Theory at USAFA. General Clark disputed Professor Chandler’s claim and maintained that the subject is taught but not promoted. Calls from the graduate community to clarify the issue by releasing the course syllabuses continue to be ignored.
General Clark has been a steadfast proponent of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for all members of the Cadet Wing. He has denied all requests for religious and medical exemptions, citing obsolete data derived from the early stages of the pandemic, and failing to recognize the low probability of serious disease, and the negligible benefit and attendant risks of the vaccine in the healthy cadet population.
Last month all USAFA cadets were required to attend a D&I briefing that instructed them about preferred pronouns, the problems with using the words "mom" and "dad," and the impropriety of Dr. Martin Luther King's sage comments regarding the relative importance of one's color and character. When the course’s slide presentation was leaked to the public, the Superintendent claimed that the subject matter was taken out of context. This interpretation conflicted with the version told by cadets who attended the lecture.
Further controversy arose, when it was discovered that eligibility for a nine week paid internship at a major aerospace company was based on sex and minority status. The Brooke Owens Fellowship stipulated that only gender minorities need apply, and cis-gender men specifically were instructed not to respond. Similarly, the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship offered a nine week paid internship for only black cadets interested in aerospace careers.
Applications to all military academies fell this year, but USAFA's shortfall was far worse than at West Point and Annapolis. USAFA's Director of Admissions blames the precipitous 46% drop in qualified candidates on Covid. With USAFA mired in controversy and the recently disclosed football team's recruiting violations and placement on NCAA probation, one suspects that USAFA’s problems are endemic and self-inflicted.
The Class of 1972: Fortitudo Per Aspera
As the Vietnam War escalated, we volunteered to serve our country and gain admission to USAFA through a rigorous merit based admissions process. We represented a cross section of the American melting pot. From the beginning, one expression became the focus of training: E pluribus unum, “Out of many, one,” which was inscribed on the Great Seal of the United States in 1782 and served as the de facto motto of the United States for 174 years.
At the time 27 different majors were offered to cadets, and USAFA was rated the third best engineering school in the country, behind only Cal Tech and MIT. Including non-graded military, athletic, and physical education courses, cadets earned roughly 200 semester hours over the four year period. All members of the faculty were active duty military officers, who swore the Oath of Office to the Constitution.
The highest of standards were expected, as military training, academic, and physical fitness programs were tailored to cull all but the most committed cadets. Of the 1254 that entered our class, 496 left before graduation—an attrition rate of 40%. To put these numbers in perspective, graduation rates at USAFA during the past decade approach 90% in some classes.
We lived by a strictly enforced Honor Code that forbade lying, cheating, stealing, or tolerating dishonorable conduct. Thirty years after our graduation at an Honor Code briefing in 2002, the Commandant of Cadets told us that the current generation of cadets could not be expected to adhere to these standards. In a 2022 article in Checkpoints Magazine, Superintendent Clark reiterated a similar assessment.
Less than 25 years separated the entrance to the Academy of the Class of 1972 from the conclusion of WWII. A portion of our military training dealt with the Holocast, and the moral implications of complying with unlawful orders, and excusing the excesses as "just following orders." In accordance with the Nuremberg Code, human rights were taught to be sacred, and a military officer's responsibility is to ensure that these rights are protected.
An effective leader is not one who blindly complies with capricious orders, but one who displays the courage to question them. History’s legendary military commanders' successful strategies often defied convention and depended on the ability to adapt to rapidly evolving conditions. From our personal experiences in the military and civilian worlds, no leader can be truly successful without constantly searching for unique solutions in dynamic environments.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s civilian peers condemned us for wearing the uniform. One could make the argument that given the pressures both inside and outside USAFA, the Class of 1972 experienced one of the most grueling and arduous four years in the school’s history.
Call to Action
Reverend Charles F. Aked, a prohibitionist, stated, “It has been said that for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.” In Aked’s view, evil equated with the consumption of wine, beer, and whiskey.
Policies that politicize the Academy, that refute Dr. Martin Luther King’s comments about color and character, that contend today’s generation is unable to live by the Honor Code, and that create division rather than unity as the better military option have far greater moral implications than the Reverend Aked’s crusade against alcohol.
There is a natural inclination to be inert and refrain from engagement in public debate. But because of our training, life experiences, and common sense we are ideally suited to seek and implement solutions that will ensure that present and future cadets have the same opportunities as the Class of 1972.
On St. Crispin’s Day, October 25, 1415, in the north of France, the Battle of Agincourt loomed. King Henry V’s army, beleaguered due to previous combat and disease, faced a French force six times its size. Confronted with discouraging odds, Henry positioned his troops brilliantly, took advantage of favorable terrain, and used his longbow archers to devastate a cumbersome foe. His victory set the stage for Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech in the play Henry V.
“From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
Prior to battle, the situation appeared hopeless to the English army. Henry’s men kissed the ground on which they stood, for surely this was their final resting place before the day was done. Knowing his life and the destiny of England depended on his men’s courage and cohesiveness, Henry rallied their spirits by delivering the “St. Crispin’s Day Speech.” He reminded his cousin Westmoreland that the honor earned today will be remembered forever. Despite being outnumbered, Henry desired no reinforcements or cowards among his troops. Honor is a zero sum game – a finite quantity that cannot be shared with those who are unworthy. The upcoming battle presented a cherished opportunity, and those absent would envy the participants and curse themselves for not being a part of history.
In Shakespeare’s time the word “vile” also meant someone of a low social class. Social barriers and petty prejudices abounded in fifteenth century England. Had Henry accentuated the differences among his troops or questioned their integrity, he would have exacerbated an already desperate predicament. Dumas similarly summarized this call to brotherhood in The Three Musketeers:
“All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.”
Thank you. Beat Navy!
President USAFA Class of 1972
September 30, 2022
The Cadet Honor Code; high attrition rates; intense competition in academics, athletics, and military performance; an all-military faculty; the requirement to swear an Oath of Office to the Constitution; and the primary mission to train career military officers — these are the traditional elements that separate a United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) education from its liberal arts counterparts. Much has changed since the first class graduated in 1959, including the welcome addition of female cadets to the Cadet Wing, but the transition includes an onerous drift toward relaxation of standards, an erosion of the Honor Code, politicization of the educational experience, and a sympathetic view of Critical Race Theory promoted by the Academy's pervasive Diversity and inclusion Program (D&I).
Last week, talking points from a USAFA-authorized lecture on inclusive language entitled "What Can I Do Now?" were shared with concerned graduates. The D&I program openly promotes a set of values consistent with the teachings of Critical Race Theory (CRT), where language, syntax, and word definitions are meticulously defined to weaponize communication and support the narrative that racism is inherent and ubiquitous.
Imagine a cadet audience being told they must now communicate in a manner dictated by CRT founders and Marxists Richard Delgado and Derrick Bell. They must become fluent in a sterile, sexually obsessed language in order to accommodate those who are easily offended and regard common English as a second language.
The Cadet Wing was instructed that the mundane, non-descriptive term "partner" should be used in lieu of "boyfriend" or "girlfriend." A nonsensical distinction was made between "people with disabilities" and "the disabled," and "transgender people" and "transgenders" — subtle, seemingly innocent differences in speech separate the pariah from the woke. A dubious guideline prohibited the use of the words "mom" and "dad." Proper terminology included caregivers and guardians, which give one the impression that one's parents serve as employees in a nursing home.
Dr. Martin Luther King's sage remarks regarding a colorless society, where one's character is more important than skin color, is deemed controversial and unacceptable by USAFA standards. Cadets were cautioned not to use the word "colorblind" or the expression "I don't see color" or "we're all just people." Anyone straying from these guidelines is instructed to "model humility."
Civilian professors constitute a large portion of the USAFA faculty and wield considerable influence over a cadet's educational experience, now valued at $416,000. USAFA offers a minor academic degree in D&I — a curious choice for an institution known for its STEM curriculum. According to Colonel Scott Williams, vice dean of the faculty, 37% of faculty authorizations are civilian, with the number expanding to 42% when including visiting faculty and distinguished chairs.
Controversy erupted when political science professor Lynne Chandler Garcia openly admitted in a Washington Post op-ed that she taught CRT at the Academy. Despite the Academy administration's denial of the events, it left many to question whether or not civilian faculty are monitored and why course syllabuses are not available to the public. Unlike military faculty members, civilian faculty do not take an oath to defend and support the Constitution.
In 2013, USAFA superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, introduced the D&I Program at the USAFA in accordance with President Obama's Executive Order 13583, declaring it "a military necessity." He went on to add,
[R]ecruiting, retraining, developing, and graduating a diverse cadet corp is as important for Air Force leadership training as it is for the quality of academic education.
His superior officer, Air Force chief of staff General Mark Walsh, lent his support by averring, "The greatest strength of our airmen is their diversity."
Total applications to the USAFA fell 28% in 2022, and qualified applications amounted to only 54% from the previous year. The director of admissions, Colonel Arthur Primas, used COVID as a scapegoat, but there are other causes at play. When asked about D&I's influence on Academy recruiting, he stated, "This focus has proven a tremendous strength for the U.S. Air Force Academy recruiting." Is this controversial program used to achieve equal opportunity, or does it have a more sinister aspect?
Fifty-four years ago, I was one of 1,250 cadets entering the class of 1972. Four years later, only 754 cadets graduated — an attrition rate of 40% that was consistent with most classes from that era. The administration recognized that the selection process was inherently imperfect, and it could not predict how candidates would perform under extreme duress. Although an applicant may appear to be well qualified, it was impossible to discern how he would react to uncompromising expectations and relentless verbal and physical abuse. The Academy administration sought to exert four years of unremitting pressure to force less committed cadets to resign and forge a bond between classmates who elected to remain.
Dismissal for poor grades, deficient leadership skills, honor code violations, and voluntary resignations reduced graduation rates to 60% of incoming classes. Graduation rates over the last decade exceed 80%, with several classes attaining rates approaching 90%. High graduation rates in a military academy environment indicate a prioritization of the selection process and the current administration's commitment to establish a system that discourages both voluntary and punitive resignations. Cadet life, as portrayed in a video produced by an Academy freshman, is considerably less arduous compared to previous times and unrecognizable to past graduates.
The trajectory of the Academy comes as no surprise — falling applications and legitimate concerns about its deviation from the primary mission to train career officers. It was prophesied in 2013 with the introduction of the D&I program, which has expanded into every aspect of cadet life, including the use of everyday language. Today's USAFA seems to have more in common with a liberal arts school with uniforms than a military academy.
In a week the USAFA Class of 1972 will meet for its 50th year reunion. It is our largest rendezvous since graduation, with 400 of 678 living graduates scheduled to attend. The tireless efforts of the reunion committee have made this lifetime event possible.
In 1968 during the escalating involvement of the Vietnam War and the social unrest pervading college campuses, 1254 of us from all walks of life and every state in the union arrived at USAFA. Our personal identity became subordinate to that of the aggregate, which fostered a level of cohesion that has continued for 54 years.
High grades and test scores coupled with athletic and leadership achievement in high school did not necessarily translate into success at the Academy. Relying on the infallibility of the cadet selection process is flawed, since it cannot identify those who will fail under extreme duress. Unremitting pressure and intense competition selected out those cadets who either lacked the motivation or talent to succeed.
When we are reunited next week, many of us will not have seen each other for 50 years, but the ensuing conversations will continue as if we never parted. Such is the bond forged by our mutual experience. There is an unspoken knowledge that we are elite, and we prevailed together through intense training during an era when our civilian peers dismissed us as pariahs for our military service.
It is a pity that cadets now attending USAFA, through no fault of their own, do not have the opportunity to prove their mettle. Cadet life, as portrayed in a video produced by a first year Academy cadet, demonstrates that the system is far less arduous compared to previous times and unrecognizable to past graduates. Graduation rates in the last decade approach 90% in some recent classes, as compared to 60% during our era.
Application rates to the Academy plummeted in 2022, with only 46% of qualified applicants compared to the previous year. All service academies experience a shortfall, but USAFA fared considerably worse than USMA and USNA. The official storyline lays the blame on Covid, but this trite excuse overlooks more serious reasons.
Traditionally the Academy eschewed political engagement and directed its efforts to train career Air Force officers. Nowadays the institution is overtly political: From its aggressive, pervasive Diversity and Inclusion Program (DI), to its sympathetic treatment of Critical Race Theory (CRT), and its support of George Takei and Black Lives Matter, no cadet is left untouched.
USAFA political science professor Lynne Chandler-Garcia admitted in a Washington Post op-ed that she taught CRT at the Academy. The Academy administration cannot be taken for its word that this did not occur or present an uncontested argument that the instruction was merely an academic exercise exploring the underpinnings of a Marxist philosophy. Quibbling is an Honor Code violation and clever use of language does not excuse dishonesty. Show the public the class syllabuses and the academic background of the faculty, including their publications and graduate theses.
The Academy now offers a minor academic degree in DI, and in mandatory training sessions, staff lecturers admonish cadets on nonsensical prohibitions. “Mom” and “Dad’ are no longer acceptable terms and should give way to sanitized identifiers such as “caregivers” and “guardians.” It is as if one’s mom and dad are employees administering end-of-life care in a nursing home facility.
High performing cadets and prospective candidates have been expelled or denied admission for refusal to receive the Covid-19 vaccination series. Religious exemptions are summarily denied, and the administration downplays the vaccine's risks and exaggerates its benefits. This heavy-handed approach continues unabated despite volumes of evidence challenging the policy, and the President declaring the pandemic over in an interview last week on “60 Minutes.”
There is a recruiting crisis throughout the military. Service branches cannot fulfill their quotas and have resorted to lowering standards. There is a critical pilot shortage that compromises national security. At a certain threshold the segments of the population who have historically served our country say, “Enough is enough—why should I serve when I am vilified for my phenotype and forced to abide by CRT indoctrination?
USAFA is at a crossroads, and the graduate community and public must not allow a few high ranking, politically appointed generals to transform the institution into a liberal arts school. The stakes are too high to concede the battle to zealots who have either forgotten the Academy’s mission or know full well what they are doing.
From the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, members of the armed forces rightfully expected their commanders to ensure their best health options—to adapt to changing conditions and implement optimum treatment plans to assure force readiness. However, the Department of Defense failed to accept that natural immunity provided the best military option and were wholly silent on any therapeutic or preventative treatment plans with the exception of mandatory, universal vaccination of all military personnel. The department, along with their civilian counterparts at FDA, NIH, and CDC, used randomized control trials (RCT) as a cudgel to quell all competing options.
Rather than serving as an impartial tool to advance the understanding of treatment modalities in the battle against Covid 19, RCTs have been used by the FDA and CDC to suppress the ability of doctors to best care for their patients. To the lay public and the less astute in the medical community, RCTs are sacrosanct and their findings beyond reproach. But according to Dr. Harvey Risch, a world renown epidemiologist and Professor Emeritus at Yale, they are easily corrupted and do not yield useful information unless the trials enroll sufficient numbers of patients to identify statistically significant outliers, and the trials are designed to evenly match the placebo and treatment arms.
The FDA’s long history of insisting that time consuming, multiple, and large-scale RCTs be concluded before terminal cancer patients were allowed to access promising, investigational cancer treatments, prompted Congress to pass the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016. Section 3022 of the law mandates that agencies reviewing Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) requests must take into account all available treatments, and RCTs are not a necessary condition for approval.
In 2020 the Henry Ford Hospital conducted studies early in the Covid crisis that showed substantial reductions of hospitalization and death, if hydroxychloroquine was administered during the initial stages of hospitalization. The two petitions for an EUA were denied by the FDA, which demanded multiple, large-scale RCTs showing efficacy before approval. Dr. Risch stated in a September 2022 interview on Viva Frei that this rejection violated the 2016 law that was specifically intended for patients seeking all reasonable therapeutic options during emergency conditions.
Ivermectin similarly was denied EUA status for off-label treatment of Covid-19 despite numerous supportive clinical studies and its contribution to the public health triumph in Uttar Pradesh. Dr. Pierre Kory discussed the global disinformation campaign to discredit the drug in a series presented on his Substack site. One only need enter "Uttar Pradesh-Ivermectin" into a search engine to be inundated with articles disputing all beneficial aspects of Ivermectin in the treatment of Covid-19.
Members of the military were denied all EUA out-patient treatment options as a result of the impossibly high and probably illegal standards set by the FDA. Conversely, in-patient treatments with expensive, patented drugs like Remdesivir, Paxlovid, and Molupiravir were granted rapid EUA despite low patient volume trials showing subtle clinical benefit.
Until a recent Harvard-John Hopkins study that demonstrated an adverse risk-to-benefit profile for Covid vaccinations for college students (an age identical to most personnel entering the military), no studies have been conducted by any major U.S. health agency or academic institution assessing the risks and benefits of the vaccine. For two and half years the agencies tasked with protecting and advising Americans have been silent on the subject.
In an article last week that is symbolic of academic institutions covering their tracts, The New England Journal of Medicine, which has aggressively and unapologetically supported mask and vaccine mandates, made the following statement:
"We believe the decisions that have been made during this later stage of the pandemic — after the introduction of highly effective vaccines, and when the trade-off between the efficacy and the perceived harms of masking in public spaces was more nuanced — warrant reexamination by public health institutions."
If the medical landscape was so “nuanced,” how can this justify abridging a patient’s right to informed consent, shutting down businesses for arbitrary reasons of public health, promoting the intellectual and emotional stagnation of children with mask mandates, or over emphasizing the benefits and ignoring the risks of the mRNA vaccine used to treat rapidly mutating Omicron variants?
These “highly effective” vaccines fail in their primary purpose to protect against acquisition and transmission of disease. The so-called effectiveness relates to the CDC’s new definition of a vaccine that omits protection and relies on the ability of a vaccine to provoke an immune response.
Health agencies consistently downplay the adverse effects of the mRNA vaccine. VAERS and DMED reports are brushed away as exaggerations, and adverse events are treated like the cost of doing business or simply collateral damage. CDC Director Walensky’s conflicting reply to Senator Ron Johnson's inquiry underscores the agency’s unwillingness or inability to objectively examine the risks of vaccinating the general public and healthy military-aged personnel.
Young males are at particular risk for vaccine induced myocarditis, and as Dr. Risch points out:
“Myocarditis is not mild. The "mild" asymptomatic form damages the myofibrils of the heart and has long term adverse effects on cardiac health. Reports of the incidence of myocarditis, which combines symptomatic and non- symptomatic cases in males in the 18-35 age range, are estimated from 1/4000 to 1/400."
Are mandatory, annual bivalent Covid boosters in store for members of the armed forces? The pharmaceutical companies are maneuvering to have the annual Covid booster automatically treated like the influenza vaccine—no need for extensive trials, just a carte blanche authority to match the annual vaccine with the most current variant and distribute to the general population.
What could go wrong? It’s just collateral damage.
“The player is expected to always conduct himself like a gentleman and an athlete. We have no place for wastrels, dissipaters, or cheaters.”—Dennis Shea, business manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers Football Club, stipulating a football player’s behavior in my father’s 1940 professional football contract.
There is increasing concern that the priorities of service academy football programs diverge from those of USAFA, USMA, and USNA, whose express goals are to prepare young men and women for a career of service in the United States armed forces.
Football and the Cadet Honor Code at the Air Force Academy (AFA) have been intertwined since the Academy’s birth in the 1950s. On one hand the Falcons are the public face of the AFA and embody the public’s expectation of a service academy team: a group of physically over-matched, scholar-athletes that represent American values and compete relentlessly and win against talented opponents. On the other hand, the football team has been a nidus for large scale Honor Code violations since the 1960s, and it has been implicated in sexual violence against other cadets, cocaine abuse, and social media reprisal against female cadets.
Football is the marquee intercollegiate sport at the Air Force Academy. Like all members of the Cadet Wing, players vow to live by the Honor Code which forbids lying, cheating, stealing, and toleration of these acts. The public expects team members and the coaching staff to uphold military tradition and refrain from making statements that would link the football program to any political agenda or controversial subject.
Members of the graduate community and the Air Force fan base apply intense pressure to field bowl-bound, winning teams.
To attain this goal the coaching staff must recruit from the limited number of gifted athletes who meet the Academy’s vaunted academic and moral character benchmarks. Given the finite pool of eligible candidates, player selection based on the ability to compete against elite football programs may lead to compromises.
There is a growing disconnection between the football program and other cadets who feel that football players are shown favoritism, are excused from large portions of military training, and are allowed to participate in behavior that is unrepresentative of the ideals promoted by the Academy. Many cadets are not passionate about Falcon football, yet the Academy administration requires them to attend pregame tailgates and all home football games. The policy to charge cadets for sports tickets exacerbates these contentious feelings.
The 2020 Honor Code scandal, the largest in the history of the Air Force Academy, involved nearly 250 cadets cheating on an examination. Most offenders were underclassmen, but the affiliations with specific teams or cadet groups were not made public. In response the Association of Graduates devoted the March 2022 edition of the alumni magazine Checkpoints to the Honor Code. Academy officials, including the Superintendent, Dean of Academics, Commandant of Cadets, and the Director of Athletics, professed a heightened awareness of the Honor Code and proposed solutions based on the “leaders of character” model, a slogan used extensively at both the AFA and West Point.
Speaking in Checkpoints,Brigadier General Linell Letendre, a 1996 AFA graduate who serves as Dean of the Faculty, recommended a non-punitive approach to Honor Code enforcement, “The final piece in shifting our honor and character culture is moving from a consequences-based incentive for honor to an aspirational-based motivation.” This statement is aligned with the present policy to educate honor violators with 6 months remedial training rather than expulsion. The hesitancy to expel cadets for Honor Code violations, poor grades, or deficiencies in leadership skills reflects the prioritization of the selection process of incoming cadets rather than their performance once they have matriculated. Fifty years ago graduation rates averaged 60% of the incoming class, but in the past decade some graduation rates approached 90%.
A summary of the history of the Honor Code, written by Stephen Randolph, who chairs the Academy’s Center for Character and Leadership Development, emphasized two recurring themes that describe the reasons why the previous eight Honor Codes systems failed. First, large scale scandals usually involved athletic teams or squadrons where group loyalty superseded individual honor. And second, there was a failure to fully address and reform fundamental, antecedent problems, most notably the toleration clause to the Honor Code. Both crucial observations were either omitted or deemphasized in the administration’s final recommendations.
A historic tension exists at the Academy between loyalty to one’s group versus adherence to the Honor Code, which requires cadets not to “lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.” On one hand, cadets are trained to trust and value members of their class or team, yet they are also expected not to tolerate dishonorable behavior from those who may be their closest friends or teammates. A GAO report noted that toleration increases during the four year academy experience, which emphasizes the need to not solely concentrate honor training on fourth class cadets.
Dr. Frederick Malmstrom, a 1964 AFA graduate, researched the Honor Code and found that cadets’ respect for the Honor Code has diminished over time. In 2018 he reviewed his findings in a lecture delivered to the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association, predicting group loyalty would supersede respect for the code by 2022.
In the aftermath of the 1976 West Point electrical engineering examination cheating incident, an investigation headed by former astronaut Frank Borman concluded that any large-scale honor scandal would find its beginnings in a “toleration situation.” Tolerating dishonorable behavior invariably involves an expanding number of cadets, and eventually leads to erosion of personal integrity and creates a cynical view of the Honor Code. The committee’s in depth analysis described the Corps’ problematic and ambivalent approach to enforcing the toleration clause—a historical lesson which the current AFA recommendations failed to address.
Each squadron at the AFA is led by an Air Officer Commanding (AOC), a commissioned officer who is responsible for the conduct of approximately 100 cadets under his or her command. When Honor Code violations, drug use, poor academic performance, or disciplinary problems occur, the AOC must promptly rectify them or risk receiving an unfavorable, career-threatening officer evaluation. It is questionable whether these expectations are applied with the same zeal to the football team coaching staff.
Head coach Troy Calhoun, a 1989 AFA graduate, has led the team for 15 years. He coordinates recruitment with various departments at the Academy to attract star athletes who can excel in the classroom and be groomed to become career Air Force officers after graduation. He is well compensated for his efforts, earning $885,000 in 2016, before signing a confidential contract extension in 2020. During Calhoun’s tenure, some football players have been responsible for some of the most flagrant disruptions of honor in the history of the Cadet Wing.
Coach Calhoun is no stranger to political activism. In July 2020 he and his coaching staff produced a social media video that used their connection with the Academy’s football team to promote the group Black Lives Matter. It was unprecedented for officials associated with a service academy to issue an overtly political statement, especially in support of an organization with Marxist underpinnings. The fallout precipitated disclaimers and deflective statements attempting to justify the breach of protocol.
To repair the Honor Code and restore respect for its principles, the Academy administration must recognize that there are privileged groups within the Cadet Wing that are at risk for committing honor violations. Two crucial steps must be taken, or the current, newly improved version of the Honor Code is doomed to failure:
Over the past 60 years hundreds of AFA football players have brought great credit to not only the Academy but to the United States Air Force and our nation. There is a place for both football and the Honor Code at the AFA, but the latter must prevail.